Review: The Astonishing Color of After - Emily X.R. Pan
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism
Published: Orion Childrens Books, March 2018 My Rating: 5/5 stars
" I want you to remember ... I will. I will remember."
It is hard for me to review this book, as it is (again) a very personal one, so excuse my scrambled-brain-"review". This is literally just me putting my first thoughts on paper. As I have said before; I have lost my mother when I was 14, and have suffered from severe depression myself. Therefore, I am rarely unfazed or "neutral" towards books on these subjects. They tend to go towards the 5-star regions, or the 1-star, depending on whether I feel they do a good job of representing this or not.
This is definitely a 5-star case. It made me feel an array of feelings, it touched me with some of the metaphors and it made me slow down and reminisce about my own experiences. I struggle with this often, and me saying that a book triggers this reaction in me, is one of the biggest compliments I can give. (This is part of why it took me so long to read it.) Althought this is magical realism, it is more on the "softer side" (it remains unclear whether there is actual magic, or whether it is all metaphors). I personally love these types of books, but if you are really not into magical realism, this may throw you off. Same with the "colour-metaphors". Leigh often uses colours to describe her emotions, sometimes in a way where it is almost like she is synesthetic. This can be very hit or miss, but the words chosen by Emily XR Pan, and the fact that Leigh is an artist, just made it all feel "right". The only other time where I have seen this colour-emotion metaphor done right would be by Death in the Bookthief, which is one of my all time favourites. The writingstyle is simply stunning and goes far above and beyond what we often find in YA. Not only the individual sentences and passages are beautifully constructed, but the novel as a whole has a structure and build that is exceptional, especially for a debut. My only critique I would have it that the book could have been 50 pages shorter. This did not bother me however.
In terms of "representation" (even though I hate that word) for depression and losing a parent, I would say excellent! I look for I cannot speak to the Taiwanese representation, but since the author herself if Taiwanese, I feel safe to say that she did a good job here too...
Again, I cannot give an objective review on this book, given the subject, but I can say that I 100% recommend you read this. Even long after finishing it: this is one that stays with me, possibly forever.
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