Review: Scott Westerfeld’s “Afterworlds”

I must first confess that YA Fiction is not my genre of choice, but the promise of a novel about getting a novel published intrigued me, especially when the novel getting published within the novel about the publishing world is basically a ghost story, which *IS* a genre I have a lot of experience with.

I first came to know Scott’s work by way of one of his more adult science fiction novels, “Evolution’s Darling”. From there I went on to read “The Risen Empire” and “The Killing of Worlds”. Having enjoyed all three of those, while at the same time proclaiming I wasn’t really into Sci-Fi, I figured I’d give “Afterworlds” a shot and step back into my youthful days when I did read YA Fiction in the form of Nancy Drew murder mysteries.

With “Afterworlds” you will be getting a two for the price of one storyline. Scott’s clear and descriptive style quickly pulled me into both worlds.

We first meet Darcy Patel who has just had her first novel accepted for publication. She’s put college aside and strikes out to live in NYC, much to the dismay of her parents. With $150,000 to live on until the novel is released and the royalties start coming in, Darcy quickly finds herself noodling her way through the city with fellow YA novelist, Imogen Gray. Imogen and fellow writer friends, encourage the 18-year-old Darcy by sharing tips and research methods, both to Darcy’s amusement and horror.

But Darcy is not the only one facing a strange new world. Second we have Lizzie, the lead character in Darcy’s version of “Afterworlds” whose life changes drastically after she finds herself the only surviving victim at an airport terrorist attack by playing dead. Lizzie plays dead just a little too well and enters a very unique rendering of the afterlife. Here she meets Yamaraj who offers up some ‘YA Hotness’ in the form of a Hindu Death God. Yamaraj does his best to teach Lizzie the ins and outs of what she’s become, but it quickly becomes clear he’s not telling her everything she needs to know. These withheld lessons lead Lizzie down a much darker path than she or Yamaraj would like her to take.

Both stories were very enjoyable. I loved learning from Darcy and company. I could easily see myself in her shoes, struggling with doubts about herself as a writer and the novel she’s written almost too easily. The lengths she and Imogen go to in the name of research made me laugh out loud and are so, so relatable. Scott’s recreation of the world beyond death that Lizzie experiences is like nothing I’ve read about before. It’s about as new and refreshing as one can get when it comes to life beyond the grave.

Have I been converted to being a big fan of YA Fiction? Probably not, but “Afterworlds” will certainly appeal to Westerfeld’s longtime fans and will likely bring in new ones. He’s done an amazing job. My one and only ‘complaint’ about this novel is that I think it would have been easier for me to read and enjoy had the two parts been presented separately. I would have liked knowing about the trials and tribulations of Darcy first, leading me towards the reward of finally getting to read the novel she struggled with for so long.

Four out of Five Stars, because nothing is ever perfect.

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