Book Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Afterworlds CoverBook: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Published September 2014 by Simon Pulse|413 pages

Where I Got It: checked out the e-book from the library!

Series: None

Genre: YA- Half Paranormal/Half Contemporary

You can find Afterworlds on goodreads

Goodreads Summary: 

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.

What I Thought:

Afterworlds really is a unique book!  It’s a novel-within-a-novel, and there is something very meta about this entire book.

I’m really not kidding.  I did get the sense that Westerfeld was poking a bit at YA tropes and just the YA community in general, but in a really good way.

I don’t even know how to begin reviewing this book…but I guess I should start with Darcy’s story.  I really liked her story, and I liked seeing her navigate New York and the publishing world, especially with the help she finds in other awesome writers.  I don’t know what that world is like, but it is one that feels so real, like that’s what it is like for one person- and it really felt like bits and pieces of it may have come from Westerfeld’s own experience as a YA writer.

I also liked that we saw Darcy over the course of a year, and how much she went through with her book and her personal life. And I loved that in quite a few ways, her life intertwined with Lizzie’s story, and how much Darcy and Lizzie had in common. Which does make sense, since Lizzie is one of Darcy’s characters.  They both had these really big things happen that would change their lives, and I liked seeing both of their stories.

I really like that we not only see Darcy working on Afterworlds but that we get the actually Afterworlds story! And not just an excerpt or quotes but the full novel.  It was kind of disorienting at first, because you get thrown into both stories, and there’s nothing to indicate which story you’re reading.  But the two stories are so different that I knew which story was which in no time.

I also liked Lizzie’s story, especially at the beginning.  It’s so weird, because I really liked Darcy’s story as the book went on, and I liked Lizzie’s story less as the book went on.  Still, it’s an interesting way to tell a story, and I think there was a lot of potential for it to not work.  For me, it worked a lot better than I could have expected or imagined, but I think the way it’s told isn’t for everyone.  Given that Afterworlds is such a big part of Darcy’s life, and different aspects of it come up throughout the book, it makes sense that we would see Darcy’s story.  It would be a very different book if we didn’t have her fictional story, and Lizzie’s story helps Darcy’s story come to life.  Both stories need each other, and you see the effects that each story has on the other one.

I found the conversations about re-telling myths and stories that are part of a culture to be not your own to be really interesting, especially given all of the recent discussions about reading diversely.  Like, it’s okay that Darcy re-tells stories from Hinduism, because her family is from India (even though Darcy herself doesn’t seem particularly religious, and her family, from what we see of them, don’t seem to be particularly religious either).  I have no idea why I find it super-interesting, but I do.  Also, I love that her family is totally cool with Darcy having a girlfriend, and that it wasn’t a big deal when Darcy told them.

Let’s Rate It:

I really liked Afterworlds, and how you needed both stories in order to tell the other one.  I liked seeing how Darcy’s life and Lizzie’s life intertwine, and how both stories have an effect on the other one.  Darcy’s story is easily 5 stars, while I’d really have to give Lizzie’s story 3 stars, so overall, Afterworlds gets 4 stars.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

    • Thanks! I was going to mention the Jane Austen connection, but I totally forgot about it right now! I can totally see it as a Pride And Prejudice re-telling though, especially in Darcy’s case.

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