I am so happy that I got this book via my library. I was curious about it since it was marketed as a magical realism book. And I rarely get to read that genre these days. There were some slight flow problems and a bit of repetitiveness here and there. However, I just have to say that was easy for me to overlook since I thought this book had such great heart and a wonderful message.
"The Astonishing Color of After" is about teen Leigh Sanders who is dealing with the fall-out from her mother's suicide. Leigh is also dealing with losing her best friend Axel who she felt on the verge of something more with when her mother killed herself. When Leigh comes face to face with a bird that she knows is her dead mother coming back to life, strange things start happening to her. She and her father finally travel to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents.
Told in the first person, we have Leigh alternating between memories of before her mother committed suicide and the present day with her in Taiwan and discovering her mother's history.
I have to say though upfront that Leigh is flawed. You may want to shake her and then hug her right afterwards. She is a walking wound in so much of this book. She is missing her mother and also missing Axel. She is wishing for a do-over in her life (as many people do when someone they love commits suicide) and she is going through some anger towards her father.
The secondary characters in this book get a chance to shine. You have Leigh's best friend Axel, the only boy that she has ever cared for who she is losing to his girlfriend. You also have Leigh's friend Caro who is not here for her BS about things. We get Leigh's memories of her parents and the colors she can see when it's related to a memory, emotion, a smell.
Leigh's father though he doesn't feel present in the present parts of the book, does feel present in her memories.
I loved how Pan had Leigh discovering parts of her mother through the incense and the bird that only she can see.
The magical realism aspect of this book was done so well. I loved every part of it. Leigh realizing that even though her mother left her, it doesn't mean she wasn't loved.
The ending was so good. I smiled.
"What is memory? It’s not something you can physically hold, or see, or smell, or taste. It’s just nerve impulses jumping between neurons. Sometimes it’s a matter of choice. Other times it’s self-preservation, or protection."