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.
I have the suspicion that this book is going to inspire a lot of people to write. Which is a good thing because yay, books!
Afterworlds is really more two books than one. In every other chapter, Lizzie discovers her newfound ability to walk amongst the dead in the afterworlds, while trying to solve a crime that has impacted her life. Darcy, the protagonist of the “other” book, is the one who created Lizzie in a 30-day NaNoWriMo-inspired writing craze. She’s young, somehow managed to land a really sweet book deal and moves to New York to pursue her writing career. Throughout the course of the book (or at least in every second chapter), she meets someone special, procrastinates like a pro and throws a great party.
Personally, I preferred Darcy’s parts to Lizzie’s chapters, even though I usually read more paranormal than contemporary. Since the reader gets to read Darcy’s novel, it’s really interesting to see what the other people in Darcy’s life think about it, how it’s being marketed and how Darcy deals with life as an author in general. It’s all very meta, and I loved it. I also loved (yes, I’m using love as a descriptory term in the second sentence in a row, which might already tell you something about my rating) Darcy’s relationship with her love interest. Especially the ending was kind of perfect because it was realistic instead of schmoopy, but still good. There’s one part where I could emphasize with Darcy especially, but spoilers. This book makes me want to comment on a lot of things that I can’t really mention without spoiling it, which is always the marker of a good book.
Lizzie’s part (the actual Afterworlds book) has its moments as well. It has a really strong first chapter (as is often commented upon in Darcy’s parts) and a fitting ending I didn’t expect, as well as one really surprising moment I’m not going to tell you about because – you guessed it- spoilers again. The insta-attraction love got on my nerves at times and I wasn’t really feeling it, but I really liked the way it is resolved. In fact, the ending made the book and everything that happened a lot better in general, and I enjoyed all of the meta-comments in Darcy’s parts of the book very much. I often wondered how much of Afterworlds (as in Darcy’s book) was written with Darcy as a first time writer in mind and how much was written like any other book by Scott Westerfeld.
The only critique I have is that sometimes the alternating chapters did throw me out of the individual stories, but I don’t really see how that could have been avoided while keeping the meta-awesomeness of the book, and the people responsible for the layout really tried to make it as easy as possible to see where you are at what point so I can’t really detract anything for that. The other point that bothered me a little is that I didn’t always find it easy to connect to the characters, which might have been a result of point one or of something else entirely.
All in all, I did really enjoy this book and I think Scott Westerfeld has surpassed himself as a writer because it sure takes a lot of skill to pull off something like this. 4.5 out of 5 cupcakes!