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.
Hardcover, 462 pages
Published March 20th 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Current Goodreads Rating: 4.2 Stars
Fluid, imaginative, beautiful piece of art. I originally thought this might be better routed for an adult younger than I, then the depth flooded over. It began by intertwining little events and their matching colors, so the reader could understand the spectrum and her view of what each color meant. It was done gracefully and naturally. Then, the "After" took place and I was in pain. I was in tears because it reminded me of the main reason I don't want to have kids. I don't want to put that burden on them to have their life depend on my mental illness. To see this child's life revolve around her mother's moods and to have to witness the light go out in her eyes figuratively then literally breaks my heart. To have someone think for a second that it might be their fault or to worry about me hit home. This story was great for the children who have seen depression in their family and/or friends. It brings the world into perspective and shows that they are not to blame. Life doesn't begin for a mother when a child is born. They might begin anew, but she had a life before you that might be filled with pain and baggage that has nothing to do with you. Depression never goes away and it is never predictable when it will show up again in full force, whether we want it to or not. This story didn't just approach one very real subject that needed to be addressed, but brought forth many. You are brought into racism with a bi-racial child who is judged multiple times with remarks by kids at school and even condemned by her own extended family. You are introduced to cultural traditions that were set in place for generations and slowly, hesitantly strayed away from. I learned, I loved, I grew. I learned some of the struggles of depression from different perspectives, I loved the color intertwined to help visible see the characters feelings, and I grew to understand a culture I was not very familiar with. I haven't even touched on the bird and all the adventures, whispers of people, and detail because then this review would be longer than the book. I highly recommend this to young adults and adults alike from those struggling from depression to those who might know someone who is.
“Once you figure out what matters, you'll figure out how to be brave.”
“Once upon a time we were the standard colors of a rainbow, cheery and certain of ourselves. At some point, we all began to stumble into the in-betweens, the murky colors made dark and complicated by resentment and quiet anger. At some point, my mother slid so off track she sank into hues of gray, a world drawn only in shadows.”
"I grew up witnessing firsthand the effects of depression and watching how my family let the stigma surrounding it become one of the darkest stickiest traps. That stigma can and does kill. That stigma is perpetuated by not talking."