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

astonishing A beautiful exploration of mental illness, family, and culture. The Astonishing Color of After takes place immediately after Leigh’s mother has committed suicide. Leigh, who is already a teenager discovering her place in the world, struggles to come to terms with what happened – and how her mother’s depression has affected both Leigh and her father. Believing that her mother’s spirit is still present, Leigh travels to Taiwan to reconnect with her estranged maternal grandparents.

This is a beautiful, thoughtful look at mental illness and grief, as well as an exploration of Taiwanese culture (the author’s background as well.) It’s also a touching reflection on family. The chapters move back in forth in time – present day Taiwan, and in the past, with flashes of memory surrounding Leigh’s mother and parents.

The subject matter here could easily become either melodramatic or saccharine, but Emily X. R. Pan has managed to write an incredibly thoughtful and balanced book that explores heavy topics with grace and a deft hand. I loved the writing, and I loved spending time with Leigh in Taiwan as she rediscovers her mother’s roots. Quietly powerful and highly recommended. (Submitted by Veronica)

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The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

wrathdawnThe story is centered in a middle eastern city called Khorasan, many years ago. It follows a teen girl named Shahrzad who is on a revenge seeking mission to kill the young king of Khorasan. The king has been marrying a different woman every night, and then having them murdered the next day for many months now, and he had Shahrzad’s best friend killed. Shahrzad is the first woman to volunteer to be the next bride sacrifice, and the king cannot help but wonder why this girl would give up her life. As the two start to spend more time together, Shahrzad begins to realize that there must be a reason why the king kills these women, and she is determined to find out why. I was so impressed with how strong the female characters were in the story, and how the author seemed to make a point that women are capable of saving themselves. The story has romance, suspense, action, humour, and it is a bit like Game of Thrones mixed with Aladdin but for Young Adults. A good book to read in the summer. (Submitted by Joy)

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Solanin by Inio Asano

solanin

Solanin is a young adult manga written by Inio Asano.  First written in 2006, it has been reprinted last year with an additional epilogue.  Solanin is a critically acclaimed manga that depicts the lives of twenty-something millennials living in Japan.  The characters in the book have recently graduated from college and are attempting to find themselves and their place within Japanese society.  The prescient ennui of fretting by the characters for their futures within Japanese society permeates this manga.  The characters battle between what is expected of them by society and what they feel they should be doing with their lives.  At first the protagonists feel the choice is binary; either they should grow up and get jobs or drop out and fulfill their passion for music.  By the end of the manga we have observed the character’s growth through personal loss and see them triumph over the need to feel alive because they have recognized that their daily actions do have meaning. (Submitted by Shane)

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5 Centimeters Per Second by Makoto Shinkai

 

5-centimeters-per-secondWritten in 2007, 5 Centimeters Per Second by Makoto Shinkai, is a Manga novelization of an anime movie by the same name.  The manga is illustrated by Seike Yukiko.  The story is set in the early 1990’s when cellphones and email have not gained widespread use.   This is an important plot device in this tale of unrequited love, missed meetings, and miscommunication.

The protagonist is Takaki Tono who falls in love with Akari Shinohara when they are still in elementary school.  The story follows Takaki’s loss of contact with Akari due to it being a long distance relationship and his journey trying to restart their communication and relationship into adulthood. (Submitted by Shane)

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Secret Path by Gordon Downie

secretpath

The Secret Path, written by Gordon Downie (from Tragically Hip) and illustrated by Jeff Lemire, devastated me, just reflecting on the tragic story of 12 year old Chanie Wenjack makes me want to cry. This book so beautifully and powerfully tells the story of his life and untimely death in October of 1966. And yet, it is books or art or the intricate dance of both, that heal and make us grateful that we allow ourselves to be tender, to feel, to cry, and to be real. To regret what was done in the past and be inspired to insure that the future is a better place for our children. My heart aches as I wish, with all of my being that I could travel through time and space, to help Chanie home: to be with his loved ones and to share Batman #189 with him in the summer of 1967.

The residential schools were a dark chapter in history, just like the concentration camps were a dark chapter in history, I am grateful for books that remind us of what I pray we as a world population moving beyond the mistakes of our past will never let happen again and inspire me for what we all can bring about in the next 150 years with respect, love and tears. (Submitted by Inti)

 

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The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby

fashion committee

I have loved the humour in Nanaimo based Susan Juby’s other young adult and adult novels, so I eagerly looked forward to reading her newest title, The Fashion Committee.  The book did not disappoint.  On the surface the plot line might sound like it’s a light or superficial story, as two teens are competing in the same fashion competition, to get a spot in a coveted art school.  However, there is a depth to the writing and the characters that draws you into the many challenges each individual faces.  This is excellent realistic fiction for teens or adults.  References to local spots in BC are fun too. (Submitted by Kristen)

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A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

face like glassThis Young Adult novel sucked me in from the first line. A Master Cheesemaker who lives underground in a City called Caverna has discovered something eating his cheeses, but he can’t seem to trap it, until one day he spots its footprints in the remnants of a soft cheese – those of a 5 year old child. Once he discovers the child, he takes her under his wing and names her after one of his cheeses, Neverfell. Neverfell is an intriguing child who asks many questions, and grows up under his cheese tutelage. But he makes her wear a black mask whenever there is a chance that anyone could see her. When children are born in the caverns of Caverna, they are unable to learn facial expressions from their parents or nurses. Their faces are blank until they are taught a series of Faces by those watching them. Those who are poor learn very few expressions, those that are rich have more opportunities. Neverfell feels trapped but knows nothing different until a Master Facesmith visits their cave and things start unravelling. With a Master Kleptomancer stealing treasures from those in power and a Steward ruling the city who could be insane, how will Neverfell survive? (Submitted by Sharleen)

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