Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Check out this book on Goodreads.
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. (Source: Goodreads)
Darcy puts her life on hold so she can move to New York to work on her writing career after she signs a two book deal straight out of high school. One half of the book (the white half) follows Darcy as she tries to edit and write while balancing a budget, a relationship, and an uncertain future in the world of writing. In her book, the second half of Afterworlds (the black half), Lizzie’s life completely changes after a terrorist attack causes her to enter the flipside and become a spirit guide of the dead. Afterworlds is told in alternating chapters between Darcy and her protagonist Lizzie tracing the journey from writing to print.
When I first heard about this book I thought the idea was amazing, but I also knew it would be kind of hard to pull off. I think Westerfeld made a good effort but there was a lot about this book that I found slow, boring, or hard to get through, which left me disappointed. I know this is in part because I have pretty high expectations for Westerfeld because I loved his Uglies series, but I think this book was different enough that the comparison didn’t really come up until afterwards, it was mostly just that I found the book…kind of boring. There are still lots of great qualities to this book, a few well developed relationships, an interesting concept, a cool fantasy element, and some great angst-y drama which makes this book a good read, but not a great one.
Okay, so I want to start off with the cover art on this book, just because it is the thing that first drew me to this book. It’s…captivating. To me there’s something terribly interesting about the cover of this book, and honestly it really fits into the story so well. The teardrop scar on Lizzie’s cheek, the constant drop shapes on the river oil, it just…was perfect. Also, that black on the bottom? The watercolour style of that just…I don’t know, something about that does it for me really.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest let’s talk plot. There are two plots, first of all Darcy. I think the idea of writing a book about writing a book is really cool. It was kind of informative, and definitely gave a good insight into the stress and effort of making a book. On top of that it really was great to see Darcy so out of her depth sometimes, because I think that’s true of not just young people in the industry, but worked well when it was highlighted by her youth and her hope for the future. The romantic plot of the Darcy portion of the book was good, and while I kind of thought at first introduction “there’s going to be a thing here between these two” I didn’t really believe it, and then it happened and I was just screaming for joy. I like that the plot wasn’t wrapped up with a neat bow on this one, because while it’s not likely to be a series it just felt more real.
The Lizzie plot for me was the downfall of this book. I just found it boring. It starts off strong. The terrorism plot was really strong and the fear of those first chapters works so well, but it just felt like it all kind of faded out and was abandoned, not just by Darcy but by Westerfeld too. I think there were a lot of things that just sort of faded out and made for disappointment for me. The idea of Lizzie as a psychopomp was really cool, but I think didn’t really work out well. It was pretty badly developed and explained for me. I think Yamaraj was a explained a little better but was still too vague. I didn’t really feel the romance in this one, it just sort of happened and I didn’t like it at all. (Agent Reyes and Lizzie on the other hand? Shipped it hard.) I found this entire half of the book disappointing, until the last few chapters which really helped to redeem it but couldn’t make the book a great book.
I think Darcy and Lizzie were very similar characters, both thrust into these new, unexpected, stressful lives and the ways in which they reacted were very different which worked well. Darcy goes head on into her life, but kind of loses track of it to her relationship and the excitement of where she is physically, and in terms of life in general. Lizzie on the other hand loses control to her anger and her fear, which worked really well. Like I’ve said, I wasn’t a huge fan of Yamaraj I didn’t think he was developed particularly well. Imogen on the other hand was well developed and real. The other authors that Darcy meets seemed like this kind of weird mashing of YA authors and…maybe fantasy YA authors, which was really fun and cool.
I think the fantasy elements of this book were interesting in concept, but really fell kind of flat in the book. For me they couldn’t hold my interest at all. I didn’t think they were developed well enough, and the world of Afterworlds the book in Afterworlds didn’t seem real or understandable. I think the real world elements of the book were a lot more interesting and written much better. This could be to create a separation with Westerfeld’s writing and Darcy’s but it just felt messy and disappointing, instead of having less good writing there should have been a style difference, this was not the case.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. I think there is a lot of good about this book despite the problems I had with it. I think it wouldn’t be my highest recommendation, especially because I know the length (600 pages) could be a little daunting for some people. I still liked it and think other people would enjoy it too.