cover image The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After

Emily X.R. Pan. Little, Brown, $18.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-316-46399-7

In the wake of her mother’s suicide, 15-year-old Leigh travels from the U.S. to Taiwan, where she hopes to come to terms with the tragedy while getting to know the maternal grandparents she has never met. Convinced that her mother has been reincarnated as a great red bird and eager to understand what happened, Leigh looks for symbols and meaning in the world around her; a stack of incense sticks grants her visions that allow insight into her mother’s past and family history. At the same time, flashbacks illuminate Leigh’s complicated relationship with her best friend Axel, whom she kissed the day her mother died. Pan’s emotionally charged debut is a compelling exploration of grief and the insidiousness of depression. Her narrator, an artist by nature, sees the world through a colorful, complicated lens, and the novel is steeped in its Taiwanese setting. The subtlety and ambiguity of the supernatural elements place this story in the realm of magical realism, full of ghosts and complex feelings and sending an undeniable message about the power of hope and inner strength. Ages 12–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Mar.)