26) Afterworlds

By: Scott Westerfeld

Date Finished: 10.7.14

by Scott Westerfeld

Darcy Patel is graduating high school with much more than a diploma — she has just signed the contract for her $300,000 two-book deal.  In lieu of attending college, Darcy decides to move to New York City and try to become a part of the writing scene.  There, she meets her heroes, falls in love, and generally ignores her budget all while editing (oftentimes procrastinating at editing) her novel.  The book she wrote tells the story of Lizzie, a young girl who survives a terrorist attack by crossing into an afterworld.  When Lizzie wakes up, she finds she has the ability to see ghosts in the real world and to cross between the two planes of existence.  For her, the afterworld is a magical place to explore and home to the most marvelous boy she’s ever met, but it also houses a dark man with an insatiable appetite.

Afterworlds — the one written by Scott Westerfeld, not Darcy Patel — tells both stories.  The odd numbered chapters explore Darcy’s journey of moving to New York and going through the publishing process while the even numbered chapters tell Lizzie’s story exactly as Darcy (via Westerfeld) wrote it.  Meta much?  What I have gathered from internet rumblings and my friends is that everyone develops a clear preference for either the Darcy chapters or the Lizzie chapters.  I’m Team Lizzie all the way.  Lizzie’s story would make a wicked cool book on its own, but I would have found a Darcy-only story a bit tedious.

To be fair, there are some great things in Darcy’s storyline.  I enjoyed reading about the publishing process in a narrative sense.  I suspect that reality is heightened in some situations, but I would bet that some of it is muted (weird things happen in the arts).  Westerfeld did a fine job of crafting those publishing-heavy vignettes into the arc of a young girl navigating a new lifestyle, her first romantic relationship, and figuring out how to relate with her family post-high school.  The problem is Darcy herself.  I’m comfortable with heroines who suffer doubts, have weaknesses, and maybe even make bad decisions, but Darcy’s insecurities should have been completely debilitating.  Her success feels like sheer dumb luck without much growth to capture my interest.  But, even though Darcy isn’t on the list of my favorite YA heroines, Westerfeld’s story design is impeccable.

Lizze is more my kind of protagonist.  She’s bold and independent and often dead wrong — everything you want in a YA lead.  This section is a paranormal romance (an acutal Barnes & Noble category for some reason) which means it’s a little sappy at times, but the fascinating paranormal elements more than make up for minor cheesiness.  This story has an interesting variation of ghost-lore, and the afterworlds are truly captivating.  There’s a sense that the book gives just a glimpse of what could exist in the afterworlds and the rest is an infinite blank canvas for the reader.  Like its leading lady, the story is daring, unapologetically exploring some very dark ideas.  And yet, it was refreshing to see a unique YA heroine in Lizzie.

On the whole, I’m glad that both stories were told together.  Alternating between Darcy and Lizzie maintained a nice rhythm, and, even with the space in between plots, I never got lost.  It is a long book, naturally, but it reads quickly and smoothly.

At the end of the day: For me

P.S. The tagline pictured here is 100% cooler than the one on the copy I bought.  The line on my copy is: “Darcy writes the words.  Lizzie lives them.”  LAME.  “You thought your way here,” is far more epic.

2 thoughts on “26) Afterworlds

  1. Rachel says:

    I’m team Lizzie, too. 🙂

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