01 June 2014

Afterworlds

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I received an advanced reading copy of this novel from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

I hold the Uglies "trilogy" dear to my heart, as it was my introduction to the dystopian young adult genre well before I even realized what the genre really was.  I expanded my knowledge of Westerfeld's work then into the Midnighters series and beyond, and he has since become my favorite young adult author.  When I heard he had a new novel coming out later this year, I metaphorically peed my pants in excitement.

I fear, perhaps, I put the novel on too high a pedestal as I was disappointed as I made my way through it.  Afterworlds is different than anything that Westerfeld has written before that I have read, and he is rather broad in his writing genres.  We explored sci-fi dystopian with the Uglies series, then magic with the Midnighters.  With Leviathan, we took an interesting steam punk fantasy route.  With Peeps we went epidemic/viral, and with So Yesterday we went mystery/real world.  But Afterworlds is in a new genre of its own again.

Afterworlds is a bit like Inception, where it is a story within a story.  On the surface, we deal with a eighteen-year-old that has hit the jackpot - she's gotten a six figure advance for her first novel, and decided to blow most of it to move to New York City to live her dream while we works on the rewrites for her novel and its sequel.  This story alternates, chapter by chapter, with the novel Darcy wrote titled Afterworlds.  In Afterworlds, we deal with paranormal where her main character, Lizzie, can transport herself to the Afterworld, can see ghosts and has a crush on a paranormal creature.

Like the publisher of Darcy's novel, the first chapter of Afterworlds sucked me in immediately as Lizzie finds herself the sole survivor of a terrorist attack at an airport.  The scene was raw and intense and suspenseful, and the rest of the novel could not hold up to this opening impression.  In fact, as the stories unfolded, I actually enjoyed Darcy's story more than Lizzie's.

While Afterworlds tended to drag on and had little suspense for a "paranormal romance" young adult novel, the way the stories play out certainly was interesting.  While we make our way through Afterworlds, we see how the changes came to be in Darcy's rewrites and how her her life impacted her story, from the first draft to the final novel, which cemented in my mind the saying "Write what you know."  And while the story within the story was hardly captivating, it was still interesting enough in conjunction with Darcy's story to hold my attention to the end.

Without Scott Westerfeld's name on the cover, I doubt this would have been a novel I would have taken a chance on as the plot is a little bit off the beaten path.  And under someone else's pen, I doubt the novel would have worked.  As it was, the novel still is probably my least favorite under Westerfeld's name that I have read to date and is one I will probably not be adding to my personal collection.  While Darcy's story, Afterworlds, didn't live up to the hype that the publishers and her blurbers gave it, Darcy's backstory was interesting enough to get me through the novel.

Imogen says it best when she points out to Darcy that she is still just a kid - a lucky, sheltered kid that is still smart at the same time.  I saw this in the way that Darcy let her younger sister do her budget for her, and how she blew through 300K in record time on impulses and with optimism.  She dives headfirst into a relationship with an older person, and becomes so involved in this first relationship of hers that she's lucky she finishes her rewrites at all.

Buy Darcy represents my dream, which is why even with her naivety and sometimes self absorption I found myself rooting for her throughout the novel.  I was the university freshman that wrote a draft of a novel over the summer and wanted to get it published.  I dreamed of the day where I could get a call from a publisher - or even figure out how to get an agent - and get a six figure signing bonus, plus a two book deal.  I still write in my spare time and aspire to be able to quit my job and work on writing full time as a career.  Darcy got to live out that dream of mine, and I enjoyed reading about my fantasy written in words, even if it is lived out by a fictional character instead.

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