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  • ★★★★-4.5

Review: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (Spoiler-Free)

'She's forgotten how to be happy,' I told him.

But that felt wrong, too.

The prose of this book is stunning. I'm still in awe of the fact that this is a debut, even if I'm four years late to the party. This is part of my project reading books that were on my 'anticipated releases list of 2018,' and I'm so glad I got to it!

There was so much I loved about this book and one thing that was lukewarm (hence the 0.5 stars off). I was enthralled by the writing and plot of this story, captivated by the family at its center. The more I read, the more I find that many books are similar and it becomes harder and harder to find one that feels unique. This was one of those rare beauties.

So many of the conversations in this book were ones I'd never read before. It tackled grief in such interesting ways, and I loved how it wove those conversations into the plot using dizzying magical realism.

I also particularly enjoyed learning about Taiwanese culture (as this book takes place in Taiwan) and seeing our main character grapple with her identity in this context.

The only thing I didn't enjoy about this book was the romance. To some extent, I think a core relationship was necessary to show how support systems are beneficial while grieving, but that doesn't mean it has to be a romance that took up as high a page count as this one did. This book is nearly 500 pages and while I mostly felt like it was warranted, the romance sections dragged and pulled me out of the main plot I was interested in. I would have preferred just a strong friendship instead of the romance drama.

I'm definitely going to remember this book. I'll carry it around with me on my mental shelf. I'm interested in reading more from Emily X.R. Pan, as the writing in this was the true standout.

Hold your finger to the sky with so much force it lengthens like a spine. Look up to the point of it and beyond. There. That tiny patch of the world, no bigger than the tip of your finger. At first glance, it might just look like one flat color. Blue, or gray, or maybe even orange.

But it's much more complex than that. Squint. See the daubs of lilac. The streak of sage no wider than a hyphen. That butterscotch smear and the faint wash of carnelian. All of them coming together to swirl at the point just above your finger.

Breathe them in. Let them settle in your lungs. Those are the colors of right now.


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