Book Review by Aarene Storms: Afterworlds

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

18-year-old Darcy Patel wrote the first draft of her novel during National Novel Writing Month, sent it to an agent in New York, and sold it (plus the as-yet-unwritten sequel) for an enormous amount of money.

Darcy takes the aforementioned enormous amount of money and moves to New York. She finds an apartment, meets other authors who love her work, and falls in love.

As one does.

18-year-old Lizzie Scofield is the main character in the novel Darcy Patel wrote. Lizzie survived a terrorist attack by entering the "flip side" (world of the dead), fell in love with a hunky guy who is apparently some kind of death god, and now she sees ghosts.

As one does.

This is not an awesome book unless you like reading about YA authors.  

You know how writers are always enjoined to "write what you know," right?

Well, Scott Westerfeld is a YA author, and when he is writing about authors, and writing, and revising, and the whole surreal, frustrating, almost-random world of publishing, he shines.

As one does.

When he is writing about the surreal, frustrating, almost-random world of being a teenaged lesbian living away from home and falling in love for the first time, not-so-much. 

Some reviewers have suggested that this is a satire, poking fun at the inhabitants of the YA publishing world, but I think that misses the mark. Rather, I think the author spotlights a weird but cool segment of the planet that he knows very, very well. The problem is: a lot of readers don't care to read about publishing. 

The exception is readers who are also writers. For those readers, here is your book. 

It is not a how-to for teen authors who want to get their YA novels published. Westerfeld is actually still writing that book, called How to Write YA. There's an excerpt of it HERE. 

It is, rather, a fictionalized insider's view of the publishing world. If you read it for that, you won't be disappointed. 

If you read it for the paranormal book-within-the-book, ehh. You'll probably find better stuff elsewhere -- and much of the better stuff was written by this author.

Violence : the opening sequence of Lizzie's story is bloody and intense, other parts are scarier but less bloody.
Underage drinking : doesn't anybody ask for ID at bars in NYC?
Some tactful sexual situations in both story lines.

Recommended for readers who write, ages 14 to adult.​


The events may not have happened; still, the story is true.  --R. Silvern

Aarene Storms, youth services librarian
Richmond Beach and Lake Forest Park Libraries, KCLS


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