Afterworlds - Scott Westerfeld

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.


Though at points too brilliantly meta for me to handle, this book was incredibly well thought out and cost me far too much sleep because I had to finish it. You know those literature classes when you had to figure out what the author was thinking? Here, you know what the author was thinking. And it's superb.


This book was written with two stories told in alternating chapters. The two stories could have stood well on their own separately. Darcy's tale wouldn't have been as compelling, but Lizzie's tale, the book Darcy wrote, would have still been wonderful. However, as someone who adores reading with all her being, I absolutely LOVED seeing the process Darcy went through as an author. Though I've been interning with a few agencies and have quite a feel for the industry, I think sometimes publishing is such a mysterious concept for readers and as such seeing the writing process live for a book I was reading was just so much fun! I always love to hear what authors changed and improved from their first drafts to the final copies, and seeing it as it happened was the best.


I kept getting frustrated because each chapter left me wanting more and as such, I couldn't stop reading and just didn't sleep though I kept promising myself I would after one more chapter (which of course turned into two because I wanted to know what happened to the other girl!) This is really a credit to Westerfeld's writing--but then again, he's Westerfeld. What did I expect?


Props for having non-binary sexualities. (I wish we lived in a world where this was a normal thing, but we don't, so many props.) Also, Darcy totally wrote her book during NaNoWriMo. Thank you, Westerfeld, for validating so many NaNoers' dreams.


Darcy's story on the surface wasn't as exciting as Lizzie's--no evil forces sewing souls or anything--but it was brilliantly clever. There's a part where characters are asked which of the five parts of storytelling is most important and the answers are brilliant. There are parts where subtle fun is poked at authors and the writing process.  I love how much attention she pays to respecting her religion and how she uses mythology in a way. There's a regular teenage girl who happened to write an awesome manuscript and make it, and if you're an avid reader, you've probably wanted to be there for at least a millisecond, making Darcy a fabulous character to relate to.


Lizzie's story was intriguing and I loved the world that Darcy/Westerfeld built. It was easy to believe and very vivid in my mind. I would have liked to have seen more substance to Lizzie's romance, but then again, I'd be more excited to read this book in a literature class and analyse how there is little substance because Darcy hadn't experienced any romance before she wrote it. This is so meta. So brilliant.


I'm going to be raving about this concept for months. And this book doesn't deserve all of the stars just for the concept, but also for how brilliantly executed this was. I'm crazily impressed by this one.