I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Also by this author: Afterworlds
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2014-09-23
Genres: Love & Romance, New Experience, Paranormal, Social Issues, Young Adult
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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Scott Westerfeld comes a smart, thought-provoking novel-within-a-novel that you won’t be able to put down.Darcy Patel has put college on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. With a contract in hand, she arrives in New York City with no apartment, no friends, and all the wrong clothes. But lucky for Darcy, she’s taken under the wings of other seasoned and fledgling writers who help her navigate the city and the world of writing and publishing. Over the course of a year, Darcy finishes her book, faces critique, and falls in love. Woven into Darcy’s personal story is her novel, Afterworlds, a suspenseful thriller about a teen who slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack. The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead, and where many unsolved—and terrifying—stories need to be reconciled. Like Darcy, Lizzie too falls in love…until a new threat resurfaces, and her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she cares about most.
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld was the thickest, heaviest, longest book that I obtained at Book Expo America. It’s also one of the books that I was THE MOST excited about because I got to go to this swank lunch hosted by Simon & Schuster and hear Westerfeld talk about the book. At the lunch, they debuted the trailer which actually is not terrible but is really good. And then Westerfeld pretty much convinced those of us in the audience at the lunch to read his book, he made it sound awesome. It’s been a few months now since that lunch so there was hype in my brain but not to the point that it would overwhelm my expectations. Turns out that Afterworlds was really, really good and despite the daunting size, a book that devoured in 2.5 days.
Westerfeld’s latest book is actually two books in one, so that’s why the size is so daunting. The tagline on the cover is “Darcy writes the words. Lizzie lives them.” Which really is the book distilled perfectly. The chapters alternate between Darcy and Lizzie. Darcy Patel wrote her book, Afterworlds, during Nanowrimo and has found herself extremely lucky in that she was able to get an offer from a query to her dream agent and is going to be published by Paradox publisher. Darcy has a huge advance and decides to take that advance and move to NYC to write and to partake in the YA author culture. Soon, Darcy finds she may be in over her head, given her pretty impulsive decision making process.
The alternating chapters are chapters of Darcy’s book, Afterworlds. Lizzie Scofield’s chapters open with a terrorist attack at an airport where Lizzie ends up developing psychopomp powers and able to navigate herself into what’s called the afterworld. Lizzie is essentially living out the words that Darcy writes and well, she finds herself falling for this death god named Yamaraj and learning all about her new powers. Lizzie is just beginning to see the world in a whole different light.
I have to say, Westerfeld really went for it when it comes to including diversity in Afterworlds. Darcy Patel is an Indian who happens to like girls. I happened to like Darcy — I thought Westerfeld did a superb job with her storyline and her vulnerabilities. We see that Darcy is totally out of her league in New York. She worries about having the right clothes and being taken seriously despite her age. She is not the best with how she spends money. She also comes across as insecure, but it’s not in a way that seems pathetic, just normal, I guess. What I really liked about her part was all the bits about the publishing world. There’s a few things that seem like in-jokes if you are really into the YA publishing world, like a reference to Publisher’s Brunch and a reference to the Sparkle Ponies. Also, a character in Darcy’s part who could potentially be John Green in that this character has a massive online following, a devout group who follows his online videos on Youtube and can quote the videos. But yeah, her part was totally interesting to a young adult industry obsessed nerd like myself.
Lizzie Scofield, on the other hand, is a white girl from California. Really, she’s an any girl stand in and people acknowledge this during Darcy’s chapters. I thought that Lizzie came across as headstrong and stubborn and interesting. Her parts were the more actionpacked parts. Like, there’s so much more happening with Lizzie than with Darcy, including a death cult. I certainly felt some deep impact from Lizzie’s parts, especially with certain deaths in her parts. Lizzie kept me glued because as she discovers what being a psychopomp means, so do we. And well, you should all know that I am such a sucker for world building.
As much as I enjoyed Afterworlds, I was not really feeling the romance in the book in both viewpoints. Lizzie is getting kind of hot and heavy with Yamaraj who is a super powerful psychopomp who is all about protecting his people in the Afterworld. However, I felt like there wasn’t really a spark or any sort of heat between the two. There’s some kissing though and that was pretty well done. As for Darcy, we see her have her first relationship with anyone, with a girl. And while I liked Imogen and thought the two were good together, there were just so many issues with their relationship which makes sense because all relationships have their issues, but I don’t know. It was a bit much for me — reading about Darcy’s jealousy and her constant need to snoop on her girlfriend and her self-obsession. Eh. There just were not a whole lot of swoons coming from this book.
I really liked Afterworlds for what it was — to me this book was a testament to the creativity and exuberance of youth. I loved looking at YA publishing through Darcy’s unjaded eyes. I loved reading Darcy’s chapters as I read about her life in New York City. I liked reading about the psychopomps and the afterworlds. I liked the serial killer bits in Lizzie’s chapters and the macabre route it takes. I mean, if you read this book, don’t read it for the romances, read it for the conflict, the plot, and the characterization.