Monday, January 12, 2015

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Most of the books I pick up at the library are waiting patiently for me on the reserve shelf.  I usually know what I want to read and have reserved it ahead of time.  In a rare luxurious moment of wandering the library, I came across Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld.  I had loved his Uglies series and the cover art caught my attention.  The size and weight of this book also really had me intrigued.  At 599 pages, it's no small read and once I read the inside flap I was hooked.  Afterworlds is a fascinating concept - it is two books in one.  The first book, on white pages, is the story of Darcy Patel, an eighteen-year-old girl who, during her last year of high school gave herself a writing challenge and in thirty days wrote an entire novel.  The second book on the black trimmed pages is Darcy's novel and is interspersed between chapters of the first book.  It is the story of Lizzie, a young girl caught in a terrorist attack in an airport who slips into the world of the dead, but returns forever changed.  Confused?  I was, too at first, but that was what interested me.

Darcy's story is fascinating, especially to anyone who has ever dreamed of becoming a writer.  Darcy's book is quickly picked up by a publishing house and we are allowed to follow her as she becomes a part of the YA world.  John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars had this to say about it:  "I recognize nothing of myself or any of my friends in this book.  Well, except for the true parts, of course.  And the parts that aren't true certainly COULD'VE happened. But no, no.  It's all lies."  Actually, there are several fellow author comments on Westerfeld's website that are pretty hilarious.  You can read them here.  Meanwhile, we get to follow along with Lizzie as she learns to navigate the Afterworld while also attempting to continue her life as normal.  The first scene, the terrorist attack, is what sold Darcy's book and what everyone loves right away.  This scene does not disappoint.  It is tense and frightening in the very best way.

I found Afterworlds entertaining and the bits about the publishing world were very educational.  Westerfeld takes his readers through the entire process of publishing and the release of a book from contract negotiations to book tours.  He even throws in a funny bit about author book jacket photos.  My favorite character in this book was Nisha, Darcy's younger sister.  She is smart and hilarious.  Darcy may have the book deal and the exciting life in New York City, but it's Nisha I want to be.  This book is categorized as YA fiction, but I would recommend it for older YA readers.  The "F" word features prominently, as does underage drinking and references to the characters having sex, though it isn't described.

Near the end of the book, Darcy is talking about her upcoming sequel and the pressure of duplicating her success with her first novel.  There is no information that I could find about Westerfeld writing a sequel to his Afterworlds, but I'm really kind of hoping he will.