Even before all of the hype for this book built up, The Astonishing Colour of After was a 2018 book that I absolutely could not wait to get my hands on – I sent several emails to the publishers to try & get myself an ARC, but unfortunately I never received one. Instead, I waited for my copy to arrive on the release date & delved into it as soon as I could. Not a single one of my brain cells was disappointed with this book, & my heart was fit to burst by the end.
This book contains discussions & descriptions of depression & suicide throughout.
I need to write this review in a different way to how I normally would, because even though it’s been weeks since I finished this book I still do not know how to explain it. I don’t know how to explain the sadness that seeped out of the pages or how deeply this story will affect everyone who reads it. So, instead I’m going to quote some of my reading notes & then elaborate on each one.
“Immediately very tense.”
This note seems like quite a simple one, but if you’ve read the book you’ll know that the tension within this story isn’t simple; instead it’s built up of empathy, fear, teenage hormones, grief & magic, making it absolutely impossible to escape because at least one of these things is weaved into every page. This is not a book that you read to relax; because this book will set your emotions on fire & leave you constantly deep in thought.
“The short chapters add to the emotion; they highlight an inability to concentrate for too long & emphasise how much depression can disorganise your thoughts. The chapter layouts also show that, even if Leigh is doing X, Y or Z in real time, she still has certain thoughts & memories drowning her.”
This book is a mix of long chapters & short chapters; the long chapters tell the story, whilst the short chapters give you an insight into how main character Leigh is feeling throughout the book.. Sometimes these short chapters were related to the longer ones surrounding it & at other times they seemed randomly placed – but, if you’ve suffered from depression or grief then you’ll know that there’s nothing random about the placements of those thoughts & that Emily has considered them very thoroughly. This type of layout in a book like this is paramount in creating an atmosphere for the reader & really helps one to understand the main character of the story. These flittering thoughts show how fragile Leigh’s mind is during this part of her life & really help the reader to keep up with which stage of grief Leigh is passing through.
“Leigh’s description of how her thoughts ran to emos when she thought of depression is such a valuable part of this story because that’s how so many people think.”
During the flashbacks to when Leigh is first starting to recognise her mother’s depression, Emily writes that Leigh immediately thought of emos when the word depression was first mentioned – & as someone who was often called an emo growing up, & who now suffers with depression, this was a very personal moment for me. Saying that you have to be an emo to be depressed, or have to be depressed to be an emo (emo being short for emotional) is a common stereotype, & when I was a teenager it was something I was bullied over. Being a depressed emo became something to mock because it was seen as an act or a cry for attention; this is of course total
bullshit rubbish, so seeing that addressed in The Astonishing Colour of After meant a lot to me.
The depressed emo stereotype wasn’t the only stereotype that past-Leigh finds herself considering though; Leigh also feels that her mother’s depression is something to be ashamed of, so she chooses not to discuss it or acknowledge it. It takes a long time for past-Leigh to feel comfortable using the word depressed to describe her mother, partially because of stereotypes, & this is probably very relatable for a lot of people. Addressing stereotypes in books with themes that are as serious as those in The Astonishing Colour of After is something I personally think is very important so I’m really happy Emily included it.
“Reading this is like being in a trance.”
I often use the words “addicted” or “addictive” when talking about books that I really enjoyed (it’s something I really need to find an alternative way of saying) but those words are a total understatement for The Astonishing Colour of After. Emily’s writing isn’t addictive, it’s hypnotic; there were times when I physically felt like I couldn’t put this book down – which is stressful when you have work in the morning. Whether you’re reading a present tense or past tense chapter, there is this constant air of necessity – necessity to read. the. book. & it’s more powerful than any other book that I’ve ever read. Leigh’s sleep deprivation in the book also leads her to end up in a trance-like state, & I think this really influences how you feel as a reader as well… plus, it just adds to the constant need to keep reading. This book is like your favourite unhealthy snack – it makes you want so, so much more of it.
“A big build up of emotion that came tumbling down just before the end of the book.”
At the start of this strangely written review I mentioned the tension that this book forces upon its reader; well this tension builds & builds throughout the entire read, & toward the end the tension implodes in on itself & collapses right on top of you. I read this book over the course of a week & I’m incredibly pleased I did because it allowed me to properly absorb the story, characters & messages that Emily has put together; it allowed me to become fully immersed in Leigh’s life & her grief, & led me to become very emotionally attached to her. Reading this book slowly was the best way I could have read it, especially considering how much the writing made me want to race through it, & I’d advise everyone to read it this way (if you can control yourself enough, that is).
This review was weird & incredibly long, so I apologise; but The Astonishing Colour of After is also weird & incredibly long so I suppose it’s fitting. If you haven’t read this gorgeous book yet, then you really do need to. If you use the Amazon or Book Depository links to make a purchase I will receive a small fee at no cost to you so please consider doing so.
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Unfortunately, this book isn’t currently available on Audible.