Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Teen/YA Review: Afterworlds

I just finished my third book for my Big Book Summer Challenge, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, and I loved it! As with many of the big books I read during the summer that have sat on my shelves for years...why did I wait so long? I read this clever and suspenseful novel that incorporates a book-in-a-book in record time and loved every minute of it.

Seventeen year-old Darcy Patel has a very lucrative publishing contract for her first novel, which she wrote in just 30 days (though not mentioned by name, clearly Darcy participated in NaNoWrMo - National Novel Writing Month - which occurs every November). This sudden good fortune is hard for her to believe, a dream come true for the young book lover. After high school graduation, she moves to New York City to live her dream as a writer, living off her substantial advance while she works on edits and rewrites and struggles with starting her sequel. Darcy's novel is titled Afterworlds, and alternate chapters in Westerfeld's novel are the actual chapters from Darcy's book. In that story, her protagonist, named Lizzie, survives a terrorist attack by somehow finding her way into the afterworld. There, she meets a handsome teen boy (who is actually thousands of years old) who is also a living person able to visit the afterworld, as Lizzie discovers she can now do. As Lizzie deals with the aftermath of the attack in the living world, she explores the afterworld, which is sometimes frightening and sometimes fascinating, and makes friends with a young ghost.

The set-up of this novel is original, compelling, and perfect! I loved the detail of Darcy writing her novel during NaNoWrMo, and the unfolding of her novel as she writes and edits it is genius. Chapters alternate between Darcy in the real world, learning to be an adult and working on revising her novel, and her fictional world with the story of Lizzie. So, for instance, Darcy when has a discussion with writer friends in the real world, the reader sees the result of that conversation work its way into the novel she is working on. Both stories are engrossing, and the whole novel kept me turning the pages way past my bedtime many nights. I enjoyed both parts of the novel equally and couldn't wait to get back to each of the main characters. Afterworlds combines realistic fiction with paranormal fiction, both sides fascinating and original, resulting in a suspenseful, clever, and engaging book. What avid reader doesn't dream of hitting it big with a first novel and moving to NYC to become a professional writer? Don't the make the mistake I did and let this gem of a book gather dust on your shelf - read it now! I'm so glad I did...though I'm sorry that it's over.

599 pages, Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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While I read this book in print, I think it would be great on audio! Listen to an audio sample here.

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  1. What a clever concept to have two books going within one. Westerfeld is so good and it's been far too long since I've read one of his books.

    1. I've only read a few Westerfelds but definitely want to read more!

      This is a good one for writers and aspiring novelists.