My 5 Favorite YA Books by Latinx Authors | Latinx Heritage Month 2019

YA books by Latinx authors

Hi everyone! Since it’s Latinx Heritage Month, I thought a great way to celebrate was talking about some of my favorite book by Latinx authors. This is the first post of  the series and since I read so many YA books I decided to start with those.

Don't Date Rosa Santos

Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno (YA CONTEMPORARY)

It’s not often that a book breaks my heart and makes me sob, but this book managed to do just that. This book has beautiful writing, complex but lovable characters, a community that’s like a huge family, but the most special thing about it is the brilliant and bittersweet way it explores the feelings of a granddaughter of immgrants: the feelings of confusion and guilt for belonging to two places at onces, for speaking biligual words, for not knowing exactly where she comes from and what happened to the family that stayed behind.

we set the dark on fire

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (YA FANTASY)

This book captured my heart with two beautifully complex main characters, a forbidden love story, fascinating mythology, an infuriating world and a flawed but commited rebelious group. This bookfeels Latinx, it IS unapologetically Latinx and it has the respectful and wonderful Latinx representation that we need in fantasy. Beyond all those amazing things, the strengh of this book lays in the way it addresses immigration, privilege, poverty and opression, because it manages to evoke so many emotions and be incredibly thought provoking.

juliet-takes-a-breath

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (YA CONTEMPORARY)

This book holds a very special place in my heart, it was one of the first YA books with a Latinx main character that I ever read and I fell completely in love with it.  This book has amazing writing, complex, messy and vulnerable characters, it talks about feminism and about being queer in a thought-provoking way, and it shows the different perspectives that exist in these broader movements and the importance of intersectionality. This book is insighful and provocative and I think it’s incredible important for teens, because it’s a great introduction to femenist and queer ideas.

when-the-moon-was-ours

When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (YA MAGICAL REALISM) 

This book is magical, mysterious and captivating and it’s probably my favorite magical realism book of all time and a book I’d recommend to anyone that wants to start reading this genre. This book has beautiful, flowery and poetic writing, an intriguing plot, an alluring atmosphere and complex and fascinating villains. It’s has a dark and dangerous vibe that underlies the story and that makes the reader feel unease and worry and that adds a compelling and engrossing element to the book.

labyrinth-lostLabyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova (YA URBAN FANTASY) 

Witches, fairies, an all latinx cast of characters and great bisexual rep … there was no way I wasn’t gonna love this one. The mythology and magic in this book are rooted in Latinx traditions and beliefs in such big and profund way that it can’t be confused with anything else but a love letter to Latinx magic and that’s the most amazing thing about this book. Another great thing about it is that the unveiling of Los Lagos, the magical world where part of this book takes place, is done in such a slow and delibareted way that you can’t help but be completely captivated by it.

Have you read any of this books? Do you want to read any of them? What YA books by Latinx author do you love? 
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Thoughts & Aesthetics: Nocturna by Maya Montayne

Nocturna.jpg

Title: Nocturna

Author: Maya Motayne

Published by: Balzer +Bray

Publishing date: May 7th 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 480

To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks. As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.

After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.

But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.

Goodreads | Amazon

Nocturna is an entertaining book that, while not having the most original plot and characters, feels unique in some ways thanks to the incorporation of Latinx culture and Spanish language in its world and magic system.

The main characters of Nocturna, Alfie and Finn, are both interesting in their own ways and that’s due to how they are impacted by their pasts in different but very powerful ways and how that affects the plot of the story. Alfie is a cinamon roll type of character that, at the same time, it’s a mess and makes a lot of mistakes, and throught his character, Montayne explores the ways in which grief can cause a person to be a mess, make the wrong choices and screw everything up.

On the other hand, Finn’s character is compelling because she uses a facade of being tough and heartless as a way to hold on to some control after having experienced a situation in which she was manipulated and controlled by someone else. Her development, her vulnerability and her contradictions throughout the book are not only escencial to the plot, they also give an emotional backbone to the story.

The dymanic between these characters is really entertaining and the snarky comments and the banter are fun to read, but there are also these tentative moments when they are vulnerable and honest with each other and they are so tender and beautiful. At the end, the development of their relationship is captivating and touching.

In terms of the villain, it’s interesting that this book has two villains in one and seeing the struggle for power and for control within the villain is interesting because the struggles between these two villain are not caused by one trying to stop the other from doing evil things, it’s about setting priorities for what evil things to do first and that adds a compelling element to the story.

The most magical thing about this book is the way it embraces Latinx culture and the way it uses Spanish as the language of magic in this world. Maybe it’s because there’s not that many YA fantasy books that do this, but the fact that those things are incorporated it felt special and meaningful. Another aspect of the book that it’s interesting is the way it addresses colonialism and slavery through the history of its world, and how it’s done in a very organically and subtle way.

Lastly, the main issue of this book is the pacing because it’s really uneven, so there are long bits in the book where characters are talking or thinking or planning and then some action would take place but inmediately after there would be another long strech where not a lot would happen. That constant start and stop of the action didn’t allow the book to flow as well as it could have.

Overall, while not being extremely original and having some issues with pacing, Nocturna does a great job of seamlessly incorporating Latinx culture and spanish to the story in a beautiful and meaningful way, and it does a good job too of including discussions about colonialims and slavery in a interesting, toughtful and organic way.

Have you read this book? Do you have recommendations of fantasy books inspired by different cultures? 

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Romance Report: let’s talk about two f/f romances (Once Ghosted, Twice Shy & Marriage of Unconvenience)

Romance Report.png

Hi everyone! This is the first installment of Romance Report, a new feature that I created because I’m usually looking for very especific elements in romance books depending on my mood (like a especific trope or a certain level of angst or a certain level of steam, etc) and I think a lot of people feel the same way, so in the romance report that’s the kind of information I’ll include as a way to make it easier for people to decide if a romance book is the one they are looking for or not.

Without further ado, here’s my first romance report:

Marriage of Unconvenience by Chelsea M. Cameron 

Marriage of Unconvenience

  • Series: it’s a standalone
  • Synopsis: Two childhood best friends get married to inherit some money and solve their financial issues, but they end up realizing they have feelings for each other (Goodreads)
  • Pages: 197
  • Representation: lesbian and queer main characters and a trans side character.
  • Point of View (POV): single female pov
  • Relationship: female/female
  • Tropes: friends to lovers, fake marriage
  • Romance: this book has so many sweet moments including a wedding dress shopping scene that warmed my heart, these two women love each other so much and it’s easy to tell throughout the book.
  • Steam level: low, it’s more cute than steamy. But there are explicit sex scenes.
  • Angst level: low, there aren’t any huge obstacles or any dramatic moments.
  • Comments : The writing isn’t the best, but the real problem is the editing. There are inconsistencies that go from the protagonists having different middle names throughout the book to one character being described as the best secret keeper and a few pages later as not being the best at keeping secrets.
  • Rating: 3,5 stars

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole 

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy.jpg

  • Series: book #2.5 in the Reluctant Royals series. It can be read as a standalone.
  • Synopsis: Two women reunite months after a short fling that left them brokenhearted and fall in love all over again (Goodreads)
  • Pages: 106
  • Representation: african lesbian main character and haitian-american bisexual main character.
  • Trigger warnings: deportation and forced separation of families.
  • Point of View (POV):  dual pov, one narrates the present and another the past
  • Relationship: female/female
  • Tropes: second chance romance
  • Romance: This books relies too much in the characters’ past feelings that were instalove-y to begin with (3 dates and they are in love!), which made me not be invested in the relationship. Also, the main conflict in the past and present timelines is that the characters don’t talk to each other, which gets a bit frustrating.
  • Steam level: low, there’s one explicit scene and the other scenes are fade to black.
  • Angst level: medium, there’s angst because of the way things ended between the main characters the first time they were together and also because of the reason behind their separation.
  • Comments: the writing wasn’t really for me and, because of that, it took me a long time to get into the story and connect with the characters. Also, issue of possible deportation was solved so easily that it because obvious that it was a plot device more than anything else.
  • Rating: 3,6 stars

Have you read these books? Are you excited to read them? What romance books with f/f relationships would you recommend?

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Blog Tour: With the Fire on High by Elizbeth Acevedo (Review)

With the Fire on High.jpg

ISBN: 0062662856
Title: With the Fire on High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: May 7 th 2019
Pages: 400
Genre: YA Contemporary

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Goodreads | Amazon|Book Depository | IndieBound | Barns & Noble

Elizabeth Acevedo expertly executes the recipe of an amazing book mixing loveable characters, complicated family dynamics and mouth watering descriptions of food.

It’s easy to tell this book was written by a poet, there are chapters where it’s just Emoni, the main character, reflecting on things and specific situation that are going on in her life from gentrification to racism to her relationship with her father, and in those chapters there are some really powerful quotes. Honestly, this book is full of incredible quotes and beautiful writing. The short chapters this story is told in made it such a fast and entertaining read.

Emoni as a character feels so real, she is patient, mature, responsible, insecure, she wants things for herself and for her child, her feelings get hurt, she is guarded, she gets angry, and sad, she is scared about the future. It was truly wonderful to read from her perspective. I loved her relationship with her grandma and with her best friend and I was infuriated by the way she was treated by her dad, her ex boyfriend and her ex boyfriend’s mother. The development of those relationships, especially her relationship with her dad, is amazing.

In terms of Emoni’s relationship with Malachi, it is just so sweet and he is such a nice guy and it is a great addition to the story, especially because it doesn’t take center stage and it is not the most important thing about the story. Also, I love that we are getting more YA books that address sex and intimacy in a positive way.

This book does a great job of showing Emoni as a mom and the struggles she faces being a mom, while also showing that she is more than that, she has dreams and hopes for herself, she’s also still a teenage even if she can’t act as one most of the time.

Also, I loved the way the Acevedo addresses being Afro-latinx and how sometimes people are not considered enough of either of those things, not black enough and not latinx enough, but the reality is they are both and they are enough.

While the heart of this book is defenitily in the relationships between Emoni and the other characters, the magic of the story, what makes it unique, appears when Emoni is cooking or talking about cooking and her dreams of being a chef or when other people talk about her food and what it makes them feel. It just made this book feel so special. I had so much fun reading about the culinary art classes, the fundraising and the trip to Spain.

EOverall, With the Fire on High was such a heartwarming read, perfect for fans of complex family dynamics and food in books.

About the author

elizabeth acevedo 1.jpg

ELIZABETH ACEVEDO is the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over fourteen years of performance poetry experience, Acevedo is a National Poetry Slam Champion, Cave Canem Fellow, CantoMundo Fellow, and participant of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop. She has two collections of poetry, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and winner of the 2016 Berkshire Prize, Medusa Reads La Negra’s Palm (Tupelo Press, forthcoming). The Poet X is her debut novel. She lives with her partner in Washington, DC.
Find her on:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Tour Schedule:

1 st week
April 22 – Afire Pages | Welcome Post & BTS Look on the Cover
Design Process
April 23 – Reading Peaches
April 24 – Shut Up, Shealea | Printable wallpapers/ bookmarks
April 25 – A Book Devourer | “The Life of Emoni; A Comparison”
April 26 – Bookish Wanderess
April 27 – Flipping Through the Pages
April 28 –Utopia State of Mind

2nd week

April 29 – For the Love of Diversity in Books | Aesthetics + Quote
Graphics
April 30 – The Royal Polar Bear Reads | Instagram Photos
May 1 – Endless Chapters | Recipe
May 2 – The Ultimate Fangirl
May 3 – The Wolf & Books
May 4 – Book Lover’s Book Reviews
May 5 – Weekend Reader | Cover Inspired Hairstyle

3rd week

May 6 – The Writer and The Story| Favorite Quotes
May 7 –Themollyweather
May 8 – All Things Gene
May 9 – Darque Dreamer Reads
May 10 – Your Tita Kate
May 11 – Afergtale| “Stories Our Abuelas Wouldn’t Tell Today”
May 12 – F A N N A

Giveaways

Yes, you’ve read it right! This blog tour has giveawayS not just a giveaway. Enter below to enter and win a book or a shirt of With the Fire on High! You can enter not just on either but on BOTH giveaways. The giveaways are open internationally until May 22nd.

1. ENTER TO WIN A COPY OF WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH: HERE

2. ENTER TO WIN A WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH SHIRT: HERE

Shirt design by Melissa Chan, read more about her designs here .

9 Books with Autism Representation

9 books with autism representation

9 Books Monday is a feature here on Bookish Wanderess, where I talk about 9 books that have positive representation of diverse experiences including the experiences of people of the LGBTQIA community, Native people, people of color, people with physical and cognitive disabilities or mental illnesses, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

In the past, I have done posts about 9 book with: Bisexual female mcLatinx mcBlack mcMuslim mc, Lesbian mcAsian mc, Trans mc, and Anxiety rep. (mc=main characters).

This time I’m doing 9 books with Autism Representation:

3 Books I Read and Loved

The Kiss Quotient

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The autistic rep in this is #ownvoices and it’s insightful and touching. Stella is succeseful and caring, she fixates on routines and obsesses over things and sometimes misses some social cues and she is wonderful and I loved getting to read from her perspective. The love interest is a soft boy which is rare in romance, he is a biracial Vietnamese/Swedish man and the Vietnamese rep is #ownvoices as well. Also, there’s some really steamy scenes in this.

queens of geeks

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

This book is really geeky and it has so much diversity.  One of the main characters, Taylor, is on the autism spectrum and has severe anxiety, and the other, Charlie, is a bisexual Chinese-Australian girl. There’s a lovely romantic relationship between Taylor and one of her best friends, and they are just the nerdiest, sweetest pair ever.  I really liked that this didn’t focus only in the hard parts of being Autistic, but also showed the good parts, because I feel that as much as the hard parts needs to be shown, we also need fluffy books about Aspie girls.

Are You Seeing Me

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth 

This story is about Australian twins. Perry is Autistic and Justine is his main caregiver, this is told in dual perspective so we get to hear from both Perry and Justine and they are both wonderful and they just love each other so much and I just wanted to cry over it. The author actually has twins, a son and a daughter just like in the story, and his son is Autistic and he wrote the book for them, which is really sweet. I really liked the fact that this felt pretty realistic the entire time, it was happy and sad at the same time and I think it handled that balance very well. (#ownvoices review)

4 Books on My TBR 

on-the-edge-of-gone

 

On The Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis 

This book has #ownvoices Autism rep, the main character is biracial black autistic girl and her sister is trans bisexual Black girl. Also, it’s a Sci-Fi/Dystopia book, which I think it’s amazing since I haven’t heard of that many SFF books that have Autistic main characters.

 

Things I Should Have Known

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

This focuses on siblings relationships, which I love, and it’s one of the main reasons I want to read this. There are two sisters, one of them is an Austitic girl and the other is basically her main caretaker, and then there’s two brothers, one of them also has ASD and the other is the main person caring for him. I have heard that this book shows a lot of positive sides of Autism, but it also has a very realistic depiction of ableism that can be hard to handle. (#ownvoices review)

Marcelo in the Real World

 

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork 

The main character in a Latinx autistic boy and the Latinx rep is #ownvoices. He has gone to a school for disabled kids his whole life and suddenly he has to adjust to working at his dad’s law firm for the summer; I have heard this does a good job showing both the challenges he faces and his strengths in terms of the jobs he’s asked to do. (#ownvoices review)

 

When My Heart Joins the Thousand

When My Heart Joins the Thoysand by A.J. Steiger 

The main character of this story is an Autistic girl and her love interest suffer from a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, which basically means that his bones break easily, and also he has PTSD caused by familial abuse.  I’m really excited to read this because I have heard that it’s very sex positive and discusses consent and toxic masculinity in relation to sex and I just think that’s amazing and that more YA books need to included those topics! (#ownvoices review)

2 Books Releasing Soon 

The Bride Test

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang 

After loving The Kiss Quotient, I’m can’t wait to read this one! This is about Khai, an Autistic Vietnamese-American man and Esme, a mixed race Vietnamise woman. Esme comes from Vietnam to meet Khai, who is a potential husband and who thinks that he can’t feel big, important emotions and then they meet and a relationship develops between them. Release date: May 7th 2019

 

The Boy Who Steals Houses

The Boy Who Steals Hpuses by C.G. Drews 

This book has #ownvoices Autism rep! Acording to the author there’s a hufflepuff autistic boy in this book and his brother (who’s the main character) is his main caregiver and there’s also anxiety rep and a big loud messy family and a feminist love interest who takes no nonsense and will smite you. So this sounds fantastic and I can’t wait to read it! Release date: April 4th 2019

 

What books with Autism rep have you read and loved? Which ones are on your tbr? Do you know of any fantasy or Sci-Fi books with Autism rep? 

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Diverse Nonfiction Book Recommendations

diverse nonfiction book recommendations

Hi everyone! Today I have a post that’s a bit different for me. I don’t read that much nonfiction, I mainly read YA fantasy and Sci-fi, YA Contemporary, Romance and Mystery. Nonetheless, from time to time, I’ll pick up a nonfiction book and more times than not, I’ll love it. So, I was thinking the other day that maybe some of you also like to read nonfiction from time to time and if that nonfiction is diverse that’s even better and that’s why I decided to share with you some of my favorite diverse nonfiction books.

Without further ado, here they are:

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park & Maryanne Vollers

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

Human rights activist Park, who fled North Korea with her mother in 2007 at age 13 and eventually made it to South Korea two years later after a harrowing ordeal, recognized that in order to be “completely free,” she had to confront the truth of her past. It is an ugly, shameful story of being sold with her mother into slave marriages by Chinese brokers, and although she at first tried to hide the painful details when blending into South Korean society, she realized how her survival story could inspire others. Moreover, her sister had also escaped earlier and had vanished into China for years, prompting the author to go public with her story in the hope of finding her sister. 

Why I recommend it?: I think this is a perfect book for YA readers that want to try nonfiction, especially for readers who like hard hitting contemporaries, because it tells the story of a girl that goes through many heartbreaking things and it focuses on a relatevely small period of time, not like other nonfiction books that tell the story of someone’s entire life. This book is hard to read, because the whole time you know this actually happend to a girl, you know it happens to a lot of girls all over the world. This is heartbreaking, horrific and honest. I’ll admit that the writing isn’t the best and that made it a bit harder to connect to the story, but I still found it an impactful and touching book.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock 

redefining realness

In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Those twenty-three hundred words were life-altering for the People.com editor, turning her into an influential and outspoken public figure and a desperately needed voice for an often voiceless community. In these pages, she offers a bold and inspiring perspective on being young, multicultural, economically challenged, and transgender in America.

Why I recommend it?: This book is incredibly thought-provoking, because Mock doesn’t hold back, she is achingly honest and that makes her story and what she has to say so compelling.  Mock talks about being biracial, trans and poor, she talks about poverty and prostitution, about her priviliges for “passing” as a cis woman, about what’s consider to be the ‘right’ kind of trans women and why that needs to end.  This book is insighful and moving, as well as beautifully written and I feel like everyone should pick it up. (Full review)

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay 

hunger

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

Why I recommend it?: This book unlike the two that I have already mentioned, it’s made up of essays, so there’s no linear story. There are extremely personal essays, including a incredibly heartbreaking essay about rape (huge trigger warning!), but then there’s also essays about various subjects like how harmful tv shows about losing weight can be. Still, this is mainly a book about Roxane Gay’s relationship with her body, with her weight, with food and it’s personal, raw and honest. This is a very hard book to read, but it is so powerful because it’s talks about her experience as a fat women in a world not built for her in a way that makes you empathize, that makes you see things as common as chairs in a new way because you see them through her eyes.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy

In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest:

“I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.”

Why I recommend it?: Out of all these books, this is the less heartbreaking and the one that has the most humor, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a very important and touching book. This book focuses on living with a mental illness, on how that looks like in the day to day and on the good and bad that comes with it, and it handles those topics in such a brilliant way. At some points while I was reading, I couldn’t believe someone had the words necessary to explain certain feelings and experiences, that’s how good Jenny Lawson is at translating her experience with depression into words. I would recommend this book to anyone, but particulary, to people that struggle with mental illnesses, I found this to be – as strange as that may seem- a very reassuring book.

Do you have any diverse nonfiction books to recommend? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? is any of them on your tbr? 

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

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Title: The Astonishing Color of After

Author: Emily X.R. Pan

Published by:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publishing date:  March 20th 2018

Genre: YA, Magical-contemporary

Pages: 462

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.

Goodreads | Amazon 

Trigger Warnings: suicide, depression, suicidal thoughts

Representation: Taiwanese-American main character, Puerto Rican/Filipino love interest,  lots of  Taiwanese characters and a character with depression.

The Astonishing Color of After is a beautifully written bookthe writing style is lyrical and poetic. I’ll admit that I usually have trouble connecting to characters and situations when books have that writing style, but that was not the case with this book, I wasn’t even 10% into it and it had already made me tear up. Later in the book, I did feel the writing distracted me a little from the story, but it was still beautiful.

This is a story about grief and mental illness, especifically depression, and it addresses both of these things in such an amazing and heartbreaking way. This talks about the stigma surrounding depression and how it makes it hard to discuss it with family and friends; it also deals with the feelings and thought process of the loved ones of someone with depression; it portraits how hard depression is and how there’s no easy fix, and it also explores in depth what grief can do to someone. Honestly, this book deals with so many important subjects and it does it so well.

The story is told from Leigh’s point of view, which is interesting, because she is an unreliable narrator and it’s impossible to know which of the things she is seeing and hearing are real. Another reason why Leigh is a compelling narrator is the fact that she is an artist and because of that, she has a particular way of seeing the world, which is really well described and it works well with Emily X.R Pan’s writing.

The development of the relationship between Leigh and her father is one of the most intricate and interesting parts of the story. I wish we had seen more of him in the present and not only in the past, because I feel like at the end so many things between the two of them were resolved in the blink of an eye, with one short conversation between them.

I loved Leigh and Axel together, the evolution of their relationship is told through flashbacks and  I completely fell in love with their dynamic and how sweet Axel is. Also, I really liked the fact that this book didn’t shy away from addressing Leigh’s thoughts and desires about her sexuality. It’s a very sex positive book.

The story did lose me a bit at some point when Leigh was in Taiwan, I hoped that the relationship between her and her grandparents was explored more. There are a few meaningful and sweet moments, but overall, her time in Taiwan felt like it was her going to places and wandering around without getting much out of it. And there was a point where the book started to drag a little. Nonetheless, I did enjoyed the fact that this is set in Taiwan and we get amazing descriptions of food, places, traditions and beliefs. I also want to add that, the way Leigh’s feelings of being out of place with her mother’s family were explored was really interesting, and the way this book portraited- both in flashbacks when Leigh was in the United States and in the present when she was Taiwan- the perception and reactions of other people over her being half-asian and half-white was fascinating.

Lastly, the part of the story that is told through magical memories was great. Those memories are basically where all the big reveals take place and it is a cool and unique way for Leigh to discover the truth about her family and it avoids making the book boring.

Rating: 4 stars

Have you read this book? Are you planning on reading it? What other contemporaries with magical elements would you recommend?

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