The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
An ARC was provided by Miss Print's ARC Adoption program in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.
Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: For me to buy into the fantastical of a magical realism story, the protagonist has to be one I can connect with. Or at least, their voice has to be click. Unfortunately, I felt like Leigh was always one step away from being a protagonist I truly loved. Caro and Leigh's mother, Dory, felt the most fully-formed, and there were so many layers to both of them that I loved.
I also wonder if sometimes the setting felt a little too contemporary and on the precipice of having enough description? That might be keeping me from buying into the magical realism aspects.
The last 13% was perhaps the strongest. I wish the rest of the book had been that good.
Content warning: A little bit of foul language. There are a bunch of probable triggers for depression and suicide.
The Verdict: By no means a bad book. I just think it didn't quite reach its potential.
Will I add this book to my library?: Likely not.