Hello, friends! It’s my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan and I’m excited to share my review and journal spread with you today!
Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
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Goodreads:An Arrow to the Moon Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication Date: 12 April 2022 Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Magical Realism
Romeo and Juliet meets Chinese mythology in this magical novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After
Hunter Yee has perfect aim with a bow and arrow, but all else in his life veers wrong. He’s sick of being haunted by his family’s past mistakes. The only things keeping him from running away are his little brother, a supernatural wind, and the bewitching girl at his new high school.
Luna Chang dreads the future. Graduation looms ahead, and her parents’ expectations are stifling. When she begins to break the rules, she finds her life upended by the strange new boy in her class, the arrival of unearthly fireflies, and an ominous crack spreading across the town of Fairbridge.
As Hunter and Luna navigate their families’ enmity and secrets, everything around them begins to fall apart. All they can depend on is their love…but time is running out, and fate will have its way.
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.
“Depression, I opened my mouth to say, but the word refused to take shape. Why was it so hard to talk about this? Why did my mother’s condition feel like this big secret?”
The Astonishing Color of After is a heart-wrenching story of a teenager trying to come to terms with her mother’s suicide and simultaneously exploring a side of her heritage that she never knew before. This isn’t a fast-paced or action-packed read. While filled with beautiful and poetic prose and rich emotions that are captured through the full spectrum of colors, the pace is rather slow. It’s the kind of story that requires savoring because there’s a lot going on. If I think about the range of emotions that I encountered, off the top of my head, I’d say: grief, anger, sadness, desperation, longing, love, regret, and happiness. And it’s not just tiny bursts of these emotions either, but waves of them pulling you in and up and down… Like I said, there’s a lot going on in this story.
We follow Leigh Sanders. Teenager. Chinese-Irish-American. Gifted young artist. Also, someone who experiences the world in color. Literally. They call it Synesthesia. As a result, this book is so rich with it – swirls and whirls of color to describe emotions, events, characters. Then when she loses her mother, Leigh is mired in such deep grief that she sees things in black and white, when one night her mother comes to her as a bright-red beautiful bird. Desperate to understand why her mother was so unhappy, Leigh embarks on a journey which takes her to Taiwan, where she meets her Chinese grandparents for the first time.
I never was big on magical realism but I thought how Pan incorporates elements of it into her story was very fitting. I feel like magical realism plays a big role in a lot of Asian cultures; we have a lot of stories with ghosts, spirits and unlikely magical events that happen in many Asian cultures. I feel that the magical events in this story further highlighted just how affected Leigh was by her mother’s suicide. AsLeigh recalls more memories and events become increasingly bizarre, her desperation to understand the why and how becomes more palpable.
“Here is my mother, with wings instead of hands, and feathers instead of hair. Here is my mother, the reddest of brilliant reds, the color of my love and my fear, all of my fiercest feelings trailing after her in the sky like the tail of a comet.“
I have to be honest–there were moments when this book became too overwhelming for me. Not only because there’s so much going on in the story, but at the heart of it is a profound exploration of depression. I never really understood it when people said they read something and felt triggered, but I finally understood when I read this book. Pan does such a raw portrayal of depression; it’s just very honest and upfront. There’s no ‘explanation’ to depression; it wears many faces and seemingly comes and goes as it pleases. As someone who suffers from depression, reading about how Dory’s life was basically eclipsed by it, was quite terrifying in how relatable it was. So, I definitely had to take breaks between reading and I pushed myself to finish this, but this story was so worth it.
“Once upon a time we were the standard colors of a rainbow, cheery and certain of ourselves. At some point, we all began to stumble into the in-betweens, the murky colors made dark and complicated by resentment and quiet anger.”
This story takes us on a journey of discovery through dealing with depression, grief, love, family and friendship. I was feeling all the feels and crying buckets by the end of this book. Because of its subject matter, this book is undoubtedly one my reads that hit home the hardest. It’s not an easy topic to discuss and it’s definitely not an easy topic to read, but Pan does a truly incredible job of it.
Pan also does an amazing job in capturing the tumultuous thoughts, emotions, hopes and fears of a teenager who goes through an achingly big loss. In her search for answers, Leigh’s character also experienced a rich self-discovery of her Chinese roots and a deep understanding of family and friendship. We are with Leigh as she processes her grief, her confusion, her anger and frustration, and we are also with her as she finally gets her closure and finds peace with the loss of her mother. This is a highly recommended read.
Have you read The Astonishing Color of After? What’d you think of it? Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!
It’s time for another Friday Favorites hosted by Kibby @ Something of the Book! This weekly meme is where you get to share a list of all your favorites based on the list of prompts on Kibby’s page. Sounds fun, right? This week’s prompt is: books outside of my usual genre. When I think of books outside my usual genre I tend to think of books outside my “comfort zone”. I’m usually open to all genres, barring horror coz I’m a scaredy, so it’s always hard for me to choose things outside of my “usual”. That said, the first ones that come to mind are: Non-Fiction and books with Magical Realism (yes, I’m counting this as a genre).
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and The Birth of the FBI by David Grann. Every year my goal is to read more non-fiction. I find a lot of non-fiction doesn’t hold my attention and I find my mind wandering about 80% of the time. But then there are times where I come across a non-fiction such as Killers of the Flower Moon and I devour it in one night. I just couldn’t put it down. It’s written like a story, it’s compelling and horrifyingly fascinating. So much history has been lost, it’s a shame that it’s only through stories such as these that we learn more about it. 1,000% recommend!
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Surprise, surprise, this book is getting another mention on my blog! I know I mention it regularly, but it’s one of my all time favorites for a reason. Surprising then (maybe?) that it appears on this list! Magical realism and I often don’t see eye-to-eye and I feel like classic Spanish authors utilize it abundantly. Unpopular opinion time: I read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and I wanted to cry out of sheer confusion and boredom 😭 So when my friend suggested I read Shadow of the Wind, one of her all-time favorites, I was really hesitant. You can bet I was surprised by how much I loved this book and sped through the pages. It’s so captivating and Zafon has a magical way with words that transports you to wherever you are in a story.
I’m Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: An Introvert’s Year of Living Dangerously by Jessica Pan. This is a non-fiction and ARC that I finished very recently. I finished it late and it already came out at the end of May(!!), but I’m so glad that I picked this up. Following Jessica Pan’s journey as an introvert doing all the extroverted things in one year was not only HILARIOUS but also very comforting. She did all the crazy things that I have nightmares about (talking to strangers in public, public speaking, stand-up comedy, unplanned travels alone, and guess what? She survived all of it! I loved the way she wrote this so openly and honestly, and I’m pretty sure I laughed through 90% of the book. This was 1000% relatable especially at this similar stage of life. Is it weird/creepy to say that she’s the introvert that I wish I could be? Coz she is.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan. I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. As mentioned above, magical realism tends to confuse me 🙃 and while I wasn’t expecting to encounter it in this novel (though really, I should’ve) I really enjoyed what it brought to the book! This story was touching, so beautifully told, and I feel like elements of magical realism is such a big part of Asian culture and storytelling. It simply just worked!
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. I guess this is a bit of a bonus because it’s neither NF or magical realism, it’s sci-fi! I included Dark Matter because up until now it’s still one of the only (adult) sci-fi novels I’ve read. Even if I included the YA sci-fi books I’ve read, I don’t think the number extends beyond the singles. I’m working on remedying that but (obviously) my TBR is a million unmanageable books long. So it’ll happen, just maybe not anytime too soon?
What are your favorite books outside of your usual genre? Any of these? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat in the comments!