This month’s FYA Book Club selection is The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan. Check out the discussion questions below! (Slight spoilers ahead.)
P.S. If you’ve already read the book, feel free to add any other discussion questions of your own in the comments!
This book deals with themes of suicide, death of a parent, depression, grief, and abandonment. It includes mentions of electroconvulsive therapy, racism, and blood.
Leigh ties her feelings and memories to specific colors. Think of a happy memory or a place you loved growing up – what color would you use to describe it?
1. What did you think of Leigh’s father, Brian? Was he a bad parent for leaving her with her grandparents after everything they’d been through, or was he simply a grieving father doing what he thought was best for his daughter? How did the flashbacks of his life with Dory and Leigh change how you felt about him?
2. Did you agree with Dory’s choice to keep Leigh a secret from her grandparents and her aunt? Why do you think Dory made that decision?
3. What did you think of the non-linear timeline and the use of incense to guide Leigh through the past? Why do you think Emily X.R. Pan chose this structure to tell this story?
4. What did you think of Feng? Did you like her, or did you understand why Leigh reacted to her the way that she did? Were you surprised about who Feng truly was in the end?
5. This book features many aspects of Taiwanese culture – ghost weddings and the Ghost Festival among them. Did you have a favorite tradition or aspect of Dory’s culture?
6. What did you think of Axel and Leigh’s relationship? Did you think their trajectory from friends to more felt organic?
7. What did you think of the way Pan intertwined grief and magic in this book? Do you think Leigh’s grief make it easier for her to see/accept/believe in magic? Did you ever wonder if there was no magic at all, and the bird was simply a byproduct of Leigh’s mental state?
8. This book comes with a lot of heavy content warnings. How did you feel about the way Pan handled mental health in the story? Did reading the afterword impact the way you felt about the book?