Friday, September 12, 2014

Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Afterworlds
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: September 23rd 2014
Pages: 608
Genre: Young Adult paranormal/contemporary
Source: BEA
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…
Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is kind of a hard book to review, since there's two separate stories that are still somehow intertwined. So I guess I'll just start with Darcy's story. Darcy's story is the reason I was so excited for this book - since I love everything related to books and publishing, I thought reading about it would be great. And I did love that part - I loved getting to read about Darcy trying to improve her story, the editorial comments she gets, how she tries to figure out what the ending of her books should be, etc. There is so much bookish stuff in Afterworlds - Darcy goes to BEA, she's part of the fictionalized version of the Class of 2014 debut authors, she goes on tour with a popular YA author who also makes online videos (aka a fictionalized version of John Green), and on and on and on. I especially loved the discussions of whether or not Darcy's use of Hinduism to create this paranormal world is cultural appropriation - that's something I think about a lot, and the discussion in Afterworlds is nuanced and thought-provoking. All of this bookishness made me so happy and made me feel so connected to Darcy, since this is the world I live in/want to live in, too. 

Of course, when you read about something that's so close to you and that you know so much about, you're also going to have your fair share of complaints about how realistically it's portrayed. The whole scenario of a debut author getting a $150,000 deal for her first book and the unwritten sequel is definitely rare, but it's necessary to make the story work, and I guess it works, since the characters themselves keep pointing out how lucky Darcy is. But the deal is made even more unrealistic when you consider that she simply wrote a rough draft, sent it to an agent, and had a book deal 17 days later - in my experience interning at a literary agency (and, you know, having common sense) these types of things tend to take waaaay longer. I also wasn't a huge fan of the portrayal of Darcy's agent - she lets Darcy stay in her apartment when she first comes to NYC, which in itself is... well, not necessarily unrealistic, but again, rare. Darcy describes this apartment, along with everything else her agent owns, as really fancy and expensive. She talks about how unfair it is that her agent is so rich and does the math of how, if an agent makes 15% of each client's advance and royalties, and they have about 35 clients, they'll make a ton of money. But she doesn't seem to consider that most of those clients, unlike her, probably won't get $300,000 worth of advances within the first couple of years. That whole part kind of bothered me.

Asides from the publishing-related stuff, Darcy's story is only okay. I felt kind of ambivalent towards Darcy. I felt for her, but she also frustrated me to no end, because she is incredibly naive and irresponsible, blowing through her money ridiculously fast and generally just not knowing how to be an adult. I'm also not sure how I feel about the romance - Darcy starts a relationship with a fellow author, who happens to be 23, 5 years older than Darcy. Just looking at the numbers, the age difference doesn't bother me, but considering that Imogen has been in the publishing world so much longer, their relationship is somewhat student/teacher-y, which creates for an imbalanced relationship that I wasn't sure how to feel about. Imogen by herself is a complex and intriguing character, but I didn't love her and Darcy together all that much.

Then there's Lizzie's story. I wasn't sure if Lizzie's story would be right for me, since I don't read all that much paranormal, but I loved this premise. It's very unique, and it reads like real life, seamlessly connecting the world we know with paranormal aspects. The whole concept is intriguing, original, and suspenseful, and I loved reading about it. But just like with Darcy's story, I didn't love everything about it: again, I found the romance to be just okay. It's very predictable and kind of forced - of course Lizzie would fall in love with the psychopomp (ghost guide) who saved her. He has an interesting story, but him and Lizzie don't have all that much chemistry. I was also kind of disappointed by the ending: I wanted the stakes to be higher, wanted Lizzie to have to make a bigger decision. Especially since so much of Darcy's story is about deciding how to end Lizzie's story, I found the ending she ended up going with kind of underwhelming, since nothing really happens. It makes sense, since there's supposed to be a sequel, but still.

Even though I had issues with both Darcy's and Lizzie's stories, I still really enjoyed them. Scott Westerfeld's writing is great, letting me get through the whole novel pretty quickly, despite it being a 600-page-long monster of a book. I loved reading about the world of books and publishing from Darcy's point of view, and I really enjoyed Lizzie's unique and suspenseful story, too. I definitely recommend Afterworlds, for fans of both contemporary and paranormal.


  1. This is such an interesting concept, but one I have a hard time imagining working well. How is the use of alternating chapters? Does it work, or does it make both stories feel disjointed?

    1. I do think it works! Yeah, I would be kind of annoyed to be ripped out of the story after each chapter because I would get so into it, but I think that's intended cause it makes both stories more suspenseful.

      (Sorry for taking so long to get back to you - computer problems...)


Please leave a comment - I love to hear what you think!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...