A YA novel, about a YA author publishing her first novel, featuring a book-within-a-book — written by a YA author. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld is so meta — and maybe those unfamiliar with the YA industry will miss some of the subtle nuances he has crafted, but it’s easily one of the most unique novels to hit bookstore shelves in a long time.
Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…
Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.
The beauty of the alternating chapters — half about Darcy, the author; the other half following Lizzie, her character — is that you not only get the cool paranormal book Westerfeld has created for his author-character Darcy, but you get to see the way her experiences in editing shapes the book.
It can be confusing to describe the alternating realities of Afterworlds — but the reading process itself is easy and breezy. In Darcy’s world, it’s fun to experience the author’s side of the YA world: writing sessions, editorial letters, and cocktail parties with fellow authors. With Lizzie, you get an expertly written paranormal romance.
It would have been easy for Westerfeld to simply write Lizzie’s story alone — but combining it with Darcy’s perspective is what takes Afterworlds to a whole new level, and makes it something wholly original.
The middle of the book gets bogged down a bit by Darcy’s story — but then, isn’t that the whole point? To shed some light on the true nature of the publishing world — which is, most certainly, bogged down by bureaucracy and process.
An unexpectedly twisty ride through the world of publishing and the underworld of Westerfeld’s imagination, Afterworlds is a treat for lovers of YA lit, and those who follow the world so closely. It is in stores September 23rd.