Sunday 20 January 2019

A Review: Emily X.R. Pan's The Astonishing Colour of After

Hi, and thanks for stopping by.

Today's post is going to be a review of my first 5-star read of 2019; The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan. I made it a reading resolution to start writing and posting book reviews here on my blog again, as it's pretty much how I began blogging and I miss having those special reviews here. It's my aim to post a review for every single 5-star book of 2019, so fingers crossed I can stick to that!! 

"There's no point in wishing. We can't change anything about the past. We can only remember. We can only move forward."

I had heard a lot of buzz about this book in 2018; nearly entirely positive things, in fact, which is still pretty unusual, even with some of the most popular YA books. I think the main reason I had avoided it was because I wasn't really sure that magical realism was a genre I'd enjoy. I was, clearly, completely wrong. This is a book about family, grief, guilt, falling love, friendship, art, culture and mental illness. I definitely think it's important to mention here that it explores depression and suicide a lot, at times in detail, so please read with care.

"Colours flash like promises and black flickers like static, like memories, and everything is falling, falling, remembering, falling, remembering, the two words synonymous."

Emily X.R. Pan's writing style is at once extremely readable, extremely lyrical, extremely sad and extremely special. I particularly loved the use of colour, not just in Leigh's conversations with Axel, but in her own internal monologues/the general narration of the novel. 

Reading her work for the first time reminded me of discovering Jandy Nelson's writing and Akemi Dawn Bowman's, too. I think this might be because of the significance of art to the main character, how they speak and express and breathe through their artistic passion. If you read and enjoyed I'll Give You The Sun or Starfish, I think you would adore this. This book also has me really interested and invested in magical realism; I was in awe of how much leverage and exploration it offered and how many directions a contemporary story could go in using it. It's something I almost want to experiment with in my own writing in the future, which is such a cool discovery for me.

"We kissed, and I was every colour in the world, alight."

There is a romance in this story, but it never, ever takes over. It's told mostly in flashback (a writing technique that I love) and it is such a subtle relationship, written with care and chemistry. There's also a great female friendship, a blossoming relationship with grandparents (I wish grandparents were written in such detail in more YA books) and representation of a lesbian relationship. How Emily managed to juggle all of these things, written so well, with all of the magic and pain and self-discovery of Leigh's trip to Taiwan is beyond me!

"Here is my mother, with wings instead of hands, and feathers instead of hair."

The depiction of depression in this book was achingly well written. Again, the use of flashback to explore Leigh's mother's struggle with mental illness was so clever and Leigh's own pain and guilt was heartbreaking to read about. Her relationship with her father was so engaging to me, probably one of the best parts of the book; the conclusion of this storyline was one of the most emotive parts of the story for me. 

"Here is my mother, the reddest of brilliant reds, the colour of my love and my fear, all of my fiercest feelings trailing after her in the sky like the tail of a comet."

So that is my 5-star review of Emily X.R. Pan's The Astonishing Colour of After. Have you read this book yet? If so, what did you think of it? Have you had your first 5-star book of the year yet - I'd love to hear all about it in the comments section down below!!

Till next time


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