Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note: ‘I want you to remember’. Leigh doesn’t know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time.
Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died – leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn’t home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life.
Overwhelmed by grief and the burden of fulfilling her mother’s last wish, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember.
With lyrical prose and magical elements, Emily X.R. Pan’s stunning debut novel alternates between past and present, romance and despair, as one girl attempts to find herself through family history, art, friendship, and love.
Beautifully written and utterly heartbreaking with a strong and important message.
The first thing I want to say about this book, is it’s so utterly beautiful and completely heartbreaking!
The story itself is so much more than your typical YA grief novel. There were so many stunning moments and thoughts captured beautifully within the words. I loved the representation of emotions with colours, it was so unique and completely wonderful.
This story has such an important message to share and it’s one in which I’m very familiar with. Depression and mental illness is such a taboo subject and it really needs to change. Stories like this one are really helping to spread the word and through the main character Leigh, it’s really unpacked and explored. She so desperately wants to discover the reason why her mother committed suicide – why was she so unhappy, what caused it, was it a specific person or event – but the why is pointless, depression is the reason in its self.
Leigh spends the majority of the story back in Taiwan with her mother’s family, exploring her roots and culture. It’s such a richly portrayed setting and beautifully written and described. This setting alternates between flash backs of Leigh’s life with her mother.
I really came to care for the characters and shared in their grief, love and heartbreak. The small romance with Leigh’s friend Axel was a nice addition, but it wasn’t necessarily needed, the setting, plot and strong message was enough. The ending was perfect, when I read the last line, I got goosebumps.
This is such a wonderfully touching story, with real magic, grief, love, friendship and finding yourself. I highly recommend this special story.
‘Once you figure out what matters, you’ll figure out how to be brave’.
I’d like to thank Dominic at Orion Children’s Books for sending the book my way in return for an honest review.
Hope you enjoyed! Until next time ❣