Skip to main content
Cover for The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After

Emily X.R. Pan


List Price: 18.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (3/19/2018)
Paperback (3/19/2019)
Compact Disc (3/20/2018)
Compact Disc (3/20/2018)


A Time Magazine 100 Best YA Books of All Time Selection

A stunning, heartbreaking debut novel about grief, love, and family, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson and Celeste Ng.

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 stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

"Emily X.R. Pan's brilliantly crafted, harrowing first novel portrays the vast spectrum of love and grief with heart-wrenching beauty and candor. This is a very special book."--John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down

Praise For The Astonishing Color of After

Praise for The Astonishing Color of After:A New York Times bestsellerAn IndieBound bestsellerBustle Best of YA Books of 2018A Paste Magazine Best Young Adult Novel of 2018Winner of the Walter Honor AwardWinner of the APALA Honor Award

"Emily X.R. Pan's brilliantly crafted, harrowing first novel portrays the vast spectrum of love and grief with heart-wrenching beauty and candor. This is a very special book."—John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down

"Magic and mourning, love and loss, secrets kept and secrets revealed all illuminate Emily X.R. Pan's inventive and heart-wrenching debut."—Gayle Forman, bestselling author of If I Stay and I Was Here

"Emily X.R. Pan utterly transported me to a world reminiscent of Isabel Allende. Haunting at every turn, this is a glorious debut."—Renée Ahdieh, bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn

"An extraordinary debut from a fiercely talented writer."—Nova Ren Suma, bestselling author of The Walls Around Us

"This beautiful, magical journey through grief made my heart take flight."—Holly Black, bestselling author of The Cruel Prince and The Darkest Part of the Forest

"The Astonishing Color of After works a delicate magic. Its portrayal of grief is deeply felt, and so too is its deliciously tricky romance. I loved this book."—Marie Rutkoski, bestselling author of The Winner's Curse

"My heart has never been more pleasantly devastated. A raw and brilliant debut."—Roshani Chokshi, bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen

"lyrical and suspenseful"—The New York Times Book Review

"In this dazzling debut, author Emily X.R. Pan has created a spellbinding narrative about love, family, and what it means to grieve."—Bustle

* "Dynamic, brave Leigh emerges vividly in Pan's deft hand, and her enthralling journey through her grief glows with stunning warmth, strength, and resilience."—Booklist, starred review

* "Pan's emotionally charged debut is a compelling exploration of grief and the insidiousness of depression."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "Pan's debut novel is not to be missed."—School Library Journal, starred review

* "This novel is as elegant as it is mesmerizing."—VOYA, starred review

* "Pan offers an extraordinary journey that proves real, surreal, and wholly magical."—Shelf Awareness

* "[The novel] pushes the readers' expectations in beautiful and interesting ways."—School Library Connection, starred review

"An evocative novel that captures the uncertain, unmoored feeling of existing between worlds--culturally, linguistically, ethnically, romantically, and existentially--it is also about seeking hope and finding beauty even in one's darkest hours."—Kirkus Reviews

"I am sure I will return to this book every year, just as I am sure that there will always be something new for me to find in its pages."—BookRiot

"In her debut book, Pan communicates what seems many lifetimes of wisdom: the intricacies of grief, how mental illness ripples through families and what it means to find love in the midst of so much loss."—The Daily Beast

"The story is centered on a heart-wrenching mystery, yet Pan's prose is as warm and free-flowing as Waipo's oolong tea, making this story a surprisingly uplifting one."—BookPage

"Emily X.R. Pan beautifully depicts grief in all its complexities: the numbing sadness, the rage, the confusion, and, most hauntingly, the joy."—

"Through Leigh's emotional, illuminating first person narration, Emily X. R. Pan peels back the layers of her grief to expose the heart at the center. The result is a novel as lyrical as it is earnest."—

"A hypnotic narrative."—Horn Book

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316463997, 480pp.

Publication Date: March 20, 2018

About the Author

Emily X.R. Pan currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA in fiction from the NYU Creative Writing Program, where she was a Goldwater Fellow. She is the founding editor-in-chief of Bodega Magazine, and a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Djerassi. She is the author ofThe Astonishing Color of After and An Arrow to the Moon. Visit Emily online at, and find her on Twitter and Instagram:@exrpan.

Conversation Starters from

1. The novel opens, “My mother is a bird.” What role does the bird play throughout the story and how does it change as the story progresses?

2. The story has a nonlinear narrative where it’s told in the present and through flashbacks. Why do you think it was told through this narrative structure? Did you find it effective?

3. Throughout the book, Leigh struggles with her identity as someone who is half white and half Taiwanese. How do you think she ends up finding her identity?

4. Communication is an ongoing issue in the book, whether it is Leigh with her grandparents or with her best friend, Axel. Does communication ever get easier for Leigh? Have you ever experienced something similar to her?

5. What significance do food and tea bring to the book? How did they affect your understanding of the characters?

6. When Leigh meets Feng, she is jealous of Feng’s connection with her grandparents. How does Feng serve as a foil to Leigh’s character?

7. The book has a realistic setting with elements of magic. Why did the author choose to incorporate magic? What impact did magic have on the novel?

8. Why do you think Leigh’s mother kept her sister a secret from her daughter? If Leigh had known this secret earlier, how would it have changed the way she viewed her family?

9. Grief is at the core of this novel as Leigh tries to find closure after her mom’s death by suicide. How does her family treat mental health? Why do you think there’s still a stigma on mental health issues?

10. How does Leigh use color to convey her emotions? What color do you think represents the novel?