Review: The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X. R. Pan
This is the end now. I've tried and tried and tried again but continually failed to enjoy young adult books. I've specifically made sure to only go for the ones with a synopsis I'm interested in and are widely regarded by others in the book community (people who have a lot of the same book tastes as I do), as a great book. However, there is always a fundamental issue for me every time, which is that the book seems to purely hit the surface of the hard-hitting topic they claim to cover. The Astonishing Colour of After follows a young girl called Leigh. Leigh's mother commits suicide; she only leaves a small note behind that Leigh must attempt to unfold. She travels to Taiwan to meet her grandparents for the first time, whilst contemplating the family secret her mother has eluded to. All the while, she believes her mother has become a bird following her passing, which shows up in the most unlikely moments. I was unable to finish this book unfortunately. The book is almost 500 pages long and I made it halfway before I decided to stop. After reading such a huge chunk of the book, I still felt no real connection to any of the characters and didn't feel remotely invested in the reveal of the hidden family secret. Due to this realisation, I knew that the emotional range I was expecting to feel was not going to happen for me seeing as I'd made it so far without feeling anything. As I mentioned earlier, an ongoing issue I've had with young adult books is I find they never truly discuss the subject at hand. I was expecting to come across some exceptionally written passages discussing grief and the loss of a parent to mental health issues and suicide. What I got was an unstructured and non-emotional account of a girl travelling to experience a new culture in Taiwan, and occasionally catching sight of a red bird or finding a feather. There was no real discussion as to why she believed this bird was her mother, or how she felt about losing a family member to such a tragedy. The book may well have had a beautiful ending that would be incredibly moving and make this book a must read. However I am not likely to recommend and enjoy a book I have to endure for the majority to reach a point where the reading experience is a positive one. Overall, I can't say I would recommend this book. If you generally enjoy YA, then this may be a hit that I cannot appreciate. However, if you have struggled with enjoying young adult in the past, I expect this will prove to be much of the same.
Initial Prediction: 3.5 stars
Final Rating: 1.5 stars
Publication Date: 20 March 2018
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
# of Pages: 480