The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, narrated by Stephanie Hsu
Publication Date: March 20, 2018
In The Astonishing Color of After, Leigh finds solace following her mother’s suicide in her belief that her mother has returned as a red bird. Following clues left by the bird Leigh convinces her father to take her to Taiwan to meet her mother’s parents, who she has never met. Once there, the bird continues to help Leigh uncover more clues about her mother and possibly help Leigh understand what caused her mother’s depression and eventual suicide. Interspersed throughout the book are flashbacks to Leigh’s relationship with her best friend Axel and her passion for art.
Emily X.R. Pan presents a story with magical realism and authentic characters in this haunting, yet hopeful book. The book delves realistically into the struggles of mental illness and its effect on the individual and their loved ones. The culturally diverse characters organically illustrate the struggles of being other in suburban America and Taiwan. The setting in Taiwan, described through Leigh’s artistic eye, is vividly brought to life through Stephanie Hsu’s narration. Hsu’s narration is emotionally connected and immersive.
Listeners seeking similar titles might enjoy Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert for another book dealing with suicide and the immigrant experience or the Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King for another book dealing with magical realism and nonlinear storylines.
Folded Notes from High School by Matt Boren, narrated by Taylor Spreitler, Ramy Youssef, Ryan Newman, Selma Blair, Katie Lowes, Rebecca Budig, Meredith Salenger, Vicki Davis, Adam Shapiro, Matt Boren, and Christina Applegate as the narrator.
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Folded Notes from High School by Matt Boren features Tara Murphy’s, reminiscent of queen bee Mean Girls’ Regina George, folded notes correspondences between her friends, boyfriend, and unexpected crush freshman Matthew Bloom between 1991-1992. Tara will not let anything get in the way of her high school social status or her Broadway dream except maybe her crush on Matthew and her own narcissism.
Boren writes a satirical coming-of-age epistoral story in which the listener is taken on a journey to the past socializing before texting or emails. The full cast of narrators in this audiobook are truly amazing and encompass their characters fully and completely. The full cast narration lifts the caliber of the novel. Spreitler embodies Tara Murphy to the point that listeners will extremely dislike Tara for being a single-minded ambitious narcissist and manipulator. Furthermore, as Boren’s debut novel and narration, listeners will happy to be whisked away to 1990s.
Fans of realistic drama-filled novels like Tell Me Three Things by Buxbaum, Gossip Girl by Ziesgasr, The List by Vivian or Duff by Keplinger will absorb this novel. For non-readers, television enthusiast for shows like Insatiable, Glee, and Popular will enjoy this novel. For movie-goers, who enjoyed the high school drama and journey of films like “Clueless,” “Mean Girls,” or “10 Things I Hate About You;” and “The Breakfast Club” this novel would fit right in with their interests.
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