The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan, I will admit, is a hefty book. It is long and it is deep but it captivated me from page one and before I knew it the book was over and I was left empty (in a good way). It was the kind of empty you feel when you’ve finished a book and you know you will never be the same. The kind of empty when your heart is at once both broken and filled. The kind of empty when an author leaves you wanting more, and more, and more.
Leigh Chen Sanders’ mother has just committed suicide. Leigh is understandably crushed. But the appearance of a beautiful red bird alerts Leigh to the fact that her mother is not dead, but transformed into this magical, mythical creature. Leigh is convinced she must find her mother, the bird. Her search leads her to Taiwan and to her maternal grandparents who she’s never met. There, she uncovers family secrets, ghosts, and long-neglected relationships.
Pan uses intense, colorful imagery to paint a picture both real and magic. The lines between past and present, real and imagined blur and leave the reader questioning her own grip on reality. Yet somehow Pan weaves this mysterious storyline together, creating a journey of loss and discovery everyone can relate to.
Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I’d share some other young adult books that deal with mental health issues:
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
In his long-awaited return, the author of #1 best-selling The Fault in Our Stars shares the story of Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Meeting on the ledge of their school’s bell tower, misfit Theodore Finch and suicidal Violet Markey find acceptance and healing that are overshadowed by Finch’s fears about Violet’s growing social world.
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
In the months after her sister dies, seventeen-year-old Lennie falls into a love triangle and discovers the strength to follow her dream of becoming a musician.
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
As he struggles with schizophrenia, a teenage boy believes he is on a journey to reach the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest place on Earth.
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Energized by a friendship with her brother’s gaming teammate, fourteen-year-old Audrey, a girl with an anxiety disorder, finds their subsequent romance challenging her progress.
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The author of Asa, as I Knew Him offers a compelling and poignant memoir of her two years as a teenager in a psychiatric hospital, sharing vivid portraits of her fellow patients, their keepers, and her experiences during treatment.
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Agoraphobic sixteen-year-old Solomon has not left his house in three years, but Lisa is determined to change that–and to write a scholarship-winning essay based on the results.
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
A fifteen-year-old “geek” who keeps a list of the high school jocks and others who torment him, and pours his energy into creating a great graphic novel, encounters Kyra, Goth Girl, who helps change his outlook on almost everything, including himself.
Cut by Patricia McCormick
While confined to a mental hospital, thirteen-year-old Callie slowly comes to understand some of the reasons behind her self-mutilation, and gradually starts to get better.
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Returning home to Los Angeles from her New England boarding school, Suzette considers staying home for good so that she can be near her friends, her crush, and her recently diagnosed bipolar brother, a situation that is complicated by her growing feelings for the girl her brother loves. By the award-winning author of Pointe.
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
When the anonymous teen creator of a wildly popular webcomic is tempted by a school newcomer to pursue real-world relationships, everything she has worked so hard to build crumbles in the wake of their highly publicized romance. By the author of Made You Up.
Schizo by Nic Sheff
A teenager recovering from a schizophrenic breakdown is driven to the point of obsession to find his missing younger brother and becomes wrapped up in a romance that may or may not be the real thing.
The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon
Brent Runyon was fourteen years old when he set himself on fire, and an intense retelling of that suicide attempt followed by a year of physical and psychological recovery conveys with a terrible clarity what it means to want to commit suicide.