Published by Penguin Australia, Simon & Schuster on September 2014
Genres: Young Adult
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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 never read a Scott Westerfeld novel before and with trepidation I began Afterworlds after reading a number of disappointing reviews from his legion of fans. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a Westerfeld virgin or if the subject matter of this book was just more to my taste, but either way I simply loved this novel!
The book is actually 2 stories combined in one with chapters alternating between 2 protagonists. The first story line is that of 18 year old Darcy who has just finished high school and scored a 2 book publishing deal after a month of frenzied writing during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Darcy decides to postpone college and try her hand at being a fulltime novelist including relocating to New York and she shortly finds herself immersed into “YA Heaven” which includes meeting and becoming friends with well known YA authors and her sister debut authors.
The second storyline which alternates with Darcy’s is that of her novel’s protagonist Lizzie. Dary’s novel is called Afterworlds and is a paranormal romance about psychopomps and death gods from Indian scripture. Lizzy’s story starts off with her experiencing the horror of living through a terrorist attack and being the sole survivor. This touch with death has allowed her to tap into the Afterworlds where the dead go and with the help of a fellow psychopomp and a ghost that’s been haunting her mother her entire life she learns to harness her newfound powers.
So first things first, I had to google the word “psychopomp” until I saw that it was indeed a real word a small part of me believed that Mr Westerfeld had made a bet with a friend that he couldn’t find a publisher to publish a book with a ludicrous made up word in it. The whole word is even a long running joke within the novel as Lizzie attempts to find a better name to call her gift by. Thanks to Wikipedia I discovered that indeed psychopomp is actually a word and I could put my mind to rest. No real surprises I guess as to why there isn’t a slew of YA books around based on psychopomps hehehe.
I really enjoyed both sides to this story. I loved Darcy’s journey from high school student to published author. I loved hearing about all the ins and outs of getting a YA novel published and even though I never plan on writing a book I think this storyline should go down well with fellow YA bloggers, many of whom aspire to one day be published authors themselves! A lot of lingo is used that may be a little off putting for readers that are not classified as heavy user/fanatical bibliophiles. There are mentions of tumblr, social media, ARCs and BEA among others and no real explanation to go along with them. This still works as Darcy is also new to it all however I’m not sure if all readers will appreciate it.
Throughout Darcy’s storyline there are numerous mentions about her “killer” opening chapter and I completely concur. The first chapter of Lizzie’s story about the terrorist attack and her crossing over into the Afterworld is just brilliant. I was totally captivated and at first didn’t want to cross back to Darcy I just needed to know more. Part of me wonders if this was originally going to be a book in itself and then the idea of it changed somewhere along the way. Either way it was a stellar opening chapter to any novel!
The book is just so completely enjoyable and filled with little literary nuances and odes, my favourite being a nod to Jane Austen with Darcy and Lizzie as the 2 protagonists. I also found it very unique and utterly different to any other YA book I’ve read, it manages to be completely unprejudiced and unassuming. I found the discussions and thought processes about using religious concepts in a novel fascinating and not one I have previously considered myself. I also enjoyed the way the authors seemed to leech ideas from everyday life in the most unexpected way. Considering this was over 600 pages I thought it would be a hard slog to get through but I devoured it and was left wanting even more. A fantastic novel that I will start to push on every YA reader I know!
– I just loved this unique book – 2 fantastic stories in one!