Afterworlds – Scott Westerfeld

AfterworldsFrom Goodreads.com: 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.

Published: September 2014

Why I Chose It: I have always been a fan of Westerfeld after I read his Uglies series, so I was pretty excited about his new book!

The Review:

Because this book has two separate stories, I want to separate my review into 3 sections: Lizzie’s Story, Darcy’s Story, and the book as a whole. Also this somehow got really long so…oops?

Lizzie’s Story

The opening chapter of Lizzie’s story is absolutely amazing. The terrorist attack is brutal and scary, and I think her reactions to it are great. There was such intensity that I was immediately drawn in to her story and wanted to find out what happens to her. Unfortunately the rest of the story kind of fell flat. I wasn’t really invested in the whole paranormal romance thing, and while the way Lizzie could shift to the “flipside” and visit the underworld was interesting, it wasn’t thrilling. Compared to the opening I just found the rest of the story very lackluster and kind of dull. I personally felt there were quite a few cliché’s in the narrative and I just couldn’t commit to it. I was also disappointed because in her narrative Darcy made such a big deal about the final four chapters, which contained the final climax of the story. After raising my anticipation for the last four chapters of Lizzie’s story, I once again found them quite dull.

Rating: 2 / 5

Darcy’s Story

I absolutely adored Darcy as a character. She portrayed everything that I feel as a writer, every tiny moment of pride and fear that she should have. Her intensity about writing is inspiring, and I surprisingly found following her through the rewrite stages very interesting. Unfortunately her story starts out very slowly. This is in direct contrast with Lizzie’s story, which starts with such violence and terror, making Darcy’s own start rather drab in comparison.

I’m very glad to say that Darcy’s storyline picks up. She moves to New York, meets some fabulous new people, and goes through the troubles of re-writing a book. I found her charming and loved her discussions about writing with the other characters. By the end I loved her story and was so excited to see how it would end for her.

Finally, I absolutely LOVED the love story in Darcy’s narrative. She and Imogen have such a lovely relationship, and there’s no sparks or fireworks or intensity, but a solid dependability and companionship that was very relaxed, and I really appreciated reading a romance like that. As someone who is exhausted from reading all of the intense romances in YA stories, this was such a laid back relationship built on communication and shared interests – I loved it. It’s also really awesome to see the two interacting over their writing, brainstorming and sharing ideas. They have a lovely bond, and I fell in love with this couple.

Rating: 4 / 5

The Book As A Whole

I had a lot of trouble with these two stories being put together, particularly at the beginning of the book. The pacing does not match, and I find it hard to be invested in one narrative when I find the other so dull. I also found the momentum shifted halfway through, leaving Darcy’s narrative as thrilling, and Lizzie’s fading into the background. I’m not sure if it was done intentionally, but I didn’t like the differing paces and struggled to move with both narratives at once.

In contrast, I was super pumped with the writing connections made between the two narratives. It was incredibly interesting watching something happen in Darcy’s life, and then have it appear in Lizzie’s narrative in the very next chapter. Or to have Darcy discussing a problem she’s been trying to work out in a particular scene, and have just read that scene in her book. It’s intriguing to watch Darcy go through the thought process. As a reader I never get to be inside an author’s head and understand why they wrote something a particular way, so being to follow this process is really interesting.

Even though I don’t really like these two stories together, I don’t think they would work well as a separate piece. Each half of the story would be just that – half of a story. So while I’m not sure I really like the two halves together, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t like them on their own, either. Somehow each half of the story needs the other half to become a rounded story.

I honestly think the only reason I liked Darcy so much is because I also write, and I was fascinated with reading someone else go through the troubles that I’ve personally experienced. I do wonder how non-writers would take this book and what their reaction might be. I definitely recommend this book for writers, especially YA fantasy writers, or those interested in the writing or publishing process.

Overall Rating: 3 / 5

Pacing: 2 / 5
Interest Level: 4 / 5
Lizzie Love Story: 2 / 5

Darcy Love Story: 5 / 5

Quotations:

“I’d never heard an automatic weapon in real life before. It was somehow too loud for my ears to register, not so much a sound as the air ripping around me, a shudder I could feel in my bones and in the liquid of my eyes. ” p 5

“But already something momentous had happened here at this table. Darcy could feel her course in life, which had been set so determinedly since she was a little girl, bending toward a new trajectory. She had changed the arc of her own story, merely by typing a couple thousand words each day for thirty days. And the taste of that power, the power of her own words, made her hungrier.” p 18-19

“It’s not a movie at all, Darcy; it’s a novel. And novels are messy and tangled and complicated.” p 484

 

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