The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X. R. Pan (non-spoiler review) // birds. actual birds. well just one.

Book: The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X. R. Pan

Rating: 4 stars


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.


(yes I’m sorry I’m spelling colour differently but that’s just that the UK/AUS way)

This just sounded amazing to me and the MC is half Asian!


I loved the plot. I love this book. It deals with grief, loss, friendship, love, culture and so much more. This was a journey and I loved seeing Leigh and how she dealt with her grief. How she tries to get to know her grandparents and ultimately how she grows as a person.


Leigh is an artist and she sees things in colours. She sees emotions in colour, and while it was such a strange notion for me I really loved that. That also plays into the writing which was strange but lyrical and beautiful.

This book also has flashbacks which adds to that whole journey and makes it feel like we’re experiencing and reflecting on everything with Leigh.


I’m not Taiwanese, but I am Asian and I could connect with things that Leigh felt and/or experienced. Even just the Asian foods that were mentioned in this book I was like oh hey I know that, and that felt really cool.

A big issue Leigh struggles with in this book is the disconnect between her and her grandparents and how she doesn’t know a lot of her culture and language + I felt so lucky because I can speak my mother tongue and I do know my grandparents. I’m so so grateful for that and it was almost weird seeing Leigh in that situation because in another world that might’ve been me. There are a lot of Asian Australians (or at least the ones I know) that can’t speak their parents tongue and I feel like that must suck AND IM SO GRATEFUL HG (okay enough about me)

Her mother is a bird. You heard me. It’s kind of magic realism yet also ties into Asian beliefs of reincarnation and the afterlife. I loved seeing the Taiwanese beliefs and culture, one because it was actually different for once and two, because I could see what was similar in Leigh’s vs my culture.


It was cute and it was done well, but I felt that it would’ve been just as good without and so I didn’t love that a lot. I feel like Leigh’s emotional journey regarding her family was already so intense that the romance didn’t feel special to me.

TL;DR An amazing book that deals on important topics from family to grief and hardship. It’s an important novel and one that I could personally connect with, so that was heaps cool.

A shorter, bullet point review can be found on my Goodreads here.


Talk To Me

Have you read The Astonishing Colour of After? Is it on you TBR? Are your opinions the same as mine? Or are they totally different?

Until next time,

Screenshot (2)

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17 thoughts on “The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X. R. Pan (non-spoiler review) // birds. actual birds. well just one.

Add yours

  1. Yeeee I’m so happy you enjoyed this one, I did too 🙂 I could connect with Leigh soooooo much too bc the last time I went to Taiwan she was literally me I couldn’t understand a word my grandparents were speaking 0.o.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! It’s unfortunate that the romance seemed a bit unnecessary (although I can’t say I’m too surprised by this as it happens too often in my books nowadays haha) but I’m glad to hear it’s so powerful. Excited to read it myself! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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