Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 2014
Synopsis from 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.
This is one of the more difficult posts that I’ve had to write in quite a while, mainly because there was so very little that I enjoyed about Westerfeld’s Afterworlds. I had high hopes for this one. I loved reading the Uglies series back in high school, and though I haven’t read any more of Westerfeld’s books, I was hoping that Afterworlds would wow me in the same way. Alas, it did not. It left me disappointed and wanting more. I’m a huge fan of Westerfeld’s writing style, and true to form, even in a story that I didn’t enjoy, his still writes so well that I wasn’t able to put the book down. Now there’s a conundrum for you.
Afterworlds combines two stories: that of debut author Darcy, in contrast to the story of her character, Lizzie. It’s a work of metafiction. A book within a book. Also known as “bookception.” I couldn’t help but feel like, in making this one book into two stories, each story loses something and, as a result, each becomes quite lacklustre. I didn’t feel like I really got to know the characters in either plot line because there was no room for character development.
I’ll start with Darcy’s own story. Perhaps the world of American publishers is different than it is here in Canada. I work as a marketing assistant at a small, independent, Canadian publisher. I feel, here in Canada, that those of in publishing are close knit, warm, relaxed, fun, and maybe not so glamorous all of the time. The world that Darcy enters is sparkling and star-studded, but isolating. Relationships are superficial, people are competitive, and everyone seems to be hiding something. It seemed to be a thinly veiled, negative commentary on the American publishing biz. In my own opinion, Westerfeld seemed to be venting some of his own frustrations here. BUT this is all speculation. Darcy has unexplained trust issues, she wants to act like an adult and be free of her parents but can’t handle adult responsibilities (i.e. her own finances), no one ever questions that this girl is under the legal drinking age (I get it, it’s New York City, but when I was there only a month away from my 21st birthday, I couldn’t even get into a bar to see my favourite band play), and the adults (parents, family, etc.) seem to be strangely nonchalant about this girl’s life choices. Sigh. That’s enough of Darcy. Let me explain my frustrations with the story she’s written, Afterworlds.
Afterworlds (the story within the story), starts of GREAT! I was pumped! What a fantastic first chapter. My heart was pounding. I was on the edge of my seat. Wow. But that’s it. That’s where it ended. We’re reading, presumably, the final version of the story. The version that gets published. The romance falls completely flat, unfortunately. Perhaps it could have been better with more time to pan out. All we know about Yama is that he’s a Hindu god of death, he’s hawt, and Darcy can’t do anything without him. The foundation of their relationship is Yama’s hotness. We rarely witness a conversation between the two of them (other than establishing his backstory). I couldn’t believe their romance for a minute. Darcy is impulsive and stubborn. I really was quite frustrated.
I wanted so badly to like this book and I couldn’t. I won’t be dissuaded from Westerfeld’s other books, because I know I like his style. His writing made quite an impression on my younger self and I can attribute a huge part of my love of YA to his previous series. But Afterworlds didn’t make the cut, I’m sorry to say. I can’t recommend it to you, as much as that pains me to say.