Meta Madness: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Posted 18 August, 2014 | Mary @ TheBookSwarm | Review | 39 Comments

Meta Madness: Afterworlds by Scott WesterfeldAfterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Published by Simon and Schuster on September 23, 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 608

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.

There’s something to be said for being a famous author: you get to play with plot choices a bit more than a debut author might. However, doing something different than what your fans expect out of you can also backfire. Scott Westerfeld is best known for his YA SciFi/Fantasy stories (ex: Yesterday, Uglies, Leviathan) and *half* of this book is immersed in the YA paranormal world but…the other half. The other half is contemporary, the story of a debut writer just out of high school (a “new adult”) who heads to New York to live her dream . So, in essence, Afterworlds is a NA Contemporary/YA Paranormal hybrid.

We start out in Darcy’s contemporary world. She’s just landed herself a PHAT book contract worth $300k (half for her debut and half for the sequel that she hasn’t yet written); she’s skipping college (for now and much to her traditional Indian parents’ consternation) and in NYC to live like a “real writer”; she’s meeting fellow authors (both debut and established); she’s paying way too much for an apartment in the Big City (much to her genius-with-numbers little sister’s consternation); she’s falling in love for the first time (with a fellow writer and woman), all while revising her first novel and attempting to write her second.

Darcy is naive in so many ways because she is just eighteen with very little life experience. Her development into not just a stronger writer but a stronger, more confident person is a journey we all take (okay, maybe not so much the writer part but the confidence in college or career that comes with experiences both good and bad) and it’s, at times, painful to watch. Seriously, when she spent way too much on that apartment, I wanted to smack her. She really just has no idea. Actually, there were multiple times I rolled my eyes at this clueless teenager. She spent too much (not just on the apartment but food and other stuff), blowing her budget completely out of the water. She missed several application deadlines for college and lied to her parents about it. Instead of getting an accountant, she depended on the word of her fourteen-year-old sister (who, granted, is a math genius but she’s fourteen). Hell, she missed multiple writing/revision deadlines. There are times reading YA/NA is just not good for my blood pressure and my teacher mode kicks into high gear.

Still, there are many out there who will find camaraderie in Darcy’s struggle to remain focused on her writing and revising when there are so many new experiences out there in the Big Apple and with her first girlfriend. Other times, the reader can’t help but cheer for her as she finds her way in this new world, finally hitting her stride and gaining confidence in both her abilities and her career path. And, as I’m intrigued by the whole world of publishing, I liked seeing it from an insider’s point of view (Westerfeld’s, I mean. Not Darcy’s. She’s clueless.).

Alternating chapters with Darcy and her contemporary life are the characters in Darcy’s book, called Afterworlds. This story starts out with a teenager caught in a terrorist attack. She’s the only survivor, having followed the direction of the 911 operator who told her to play dead. Except she played too well and wound up not dead but not back to the life she had before because, now, she can see and interact with the dead. I hate to say it but, after that initial chapter (which was awesome), the rest of this story is kind of cheesy. There’s insta-love (though it’s not really love because Yama’s pretty darned boring), there’s a little ghost child, there’s drama…it was okay but I wasn’t the biggest fan of this half. I liked it because it was interesting to see how Darcy interacted with her own story and how the revising/editing changed the story but, in some ways, it bogged down the contemporary story. While it has its shortcomings, Afterworlds is an intriguing story of an author and her book.

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39 Responses to “Meta Madness: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld”

  1. I think I would like Darcy’s story, even though her decisions are frustrating. And that probably is very realistic. I would’ve been ridiculous runt that amount of money at that age.
    Not sure the blending of her real life and the book would necessarily work for me, but it sounds interesting.
    Thanks for the review!

  2. I have to admit to being intimidated by the sheer size of this book Mary and the fact that it contains two full length novels. I really like the sound of the contemporary half though (which is surprising given how much of a paranormal lover I am, I would have thought that would have been the half for me), and kind of just want to read that:) Glad you enjoyed this for the most part though, even with the cheesiness of the “book” half.
    Jenny @ Supernatural Snark recently posted…Review: The AftermathMy Profile

  3. This one just doesn’t ring my bell for some reason. Maybe it’s the fact that Afterworlds is a NA Contemporary/YA Paranormal hybrid that you mentioned. I love my paranormal, but the contemporary part just doesn’t intrigue me. Glad you gave it a try though, Mary. It’s always nice to check out an author when they try something new 🙂
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  4. I’m being honest, but this book just does not attract me.. While I love the Contemporary part of the story, I just think I wouldn’t care about reading the “Afterworld” chapters. It’s weird, but when I read Fiction, in my mind it’s always real (yes, even if it’s Vampires or Aliens) but herE? I can’t even pretend that it’s real.. Does that make any sense?
    DannyBookworm recently posted…Incredible Emotional – Rites of Passage by Joy N. HensleyMy Profile

  5. Oh man that hybridism just sounds so funky that I don’t know if I’m interestested. I do have a copy of the book like you from BEA but admit was never REALLY excited for it (probably the size of it and it being YA and that fat turning me off) I’m not into NA or Contemporary so this would likely be a miss for me.
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  6. I’m sorry this didn’t work out for you. The hybrid between the NA contemporary and YA paranormal sounds like it could have been fantastic, but the flat, uninteresting characters don’t sound appealing. I totally understand what you mean about going into teacher mode on these YA/NA characters! They can get so vexing sometimes. While it can work (especially when they learn from their mistakes), it doesn’t sound like this is a book for me. Lovely review, Mary 🙂
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  7. This is different, and I too struggle with YA/NA when it comes to characters maturity and the stupid things they do..but I have to keep in mind I am not the target audience. The hybrid aspect doesn’t really appeal to me at least not contemporary and paranormal in this particular instance. Great review Mary, it really helped me decide.
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  8. Over 600 pages? That is pretty daunting for me! I have never heard of this author or book-maybe I should have? Anyway don’t think I will be reading this one. Thanks for the interesting review 🙂

  9. I only peeked at your review since I just finished a couple of days ago and need to write mine. I think I liked this better than you did, but yeah–there were definitely some cheesy parts, especially in the paranormal storyline. It IS very meta, though, I said the same thing in the initial reaction I left on GoodReads.
    Wendy Darling recently posted…Sacrifice (Elemental #5) by Brigid Kemmerer: reviewMy Profile

  10. I’ve been really hesitant to read this because of all the hype and the fact that I know it’s so different from my normal beloved Westerfeld books. I have a feeling this is going to disappoint me now. I’m probably still going to read it, but at least I can adjust my expectations. Thank you for your honesty!
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