Published by Simon and Schuster on September 23, 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
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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