Afterworlds

Scott Westerfeld
Darcy Patel has put college on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. With a contract in hand, she arrives in New York City with no apartment, no friends, and all the wrong clothes. But lucky for Darcy, she’s taken under the wings of other seasoned and fledgling writers who help her navigate the city and the world of writing and publishing. Over the course of a year, Darcy finishes her book, faces critique, and falls in love. Woven into Darcy’s personal story is her novel, Afterworlds, a suspenseful thriller about a teen who slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack. The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead, and where many unsolved—and terrifying—stories need to be reconciled. Like Darcy, Lizzie too falls in love…until a new threat resurfaces, and her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she cares about most.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2016-08-06

Wow, I think . . . maybe I just didn't get this book. What I can say with surety is that it has the worst tagline I've ever read. "Darcy writes the words. Lizzie lives them." Afterworlds is a book in two parts; a book within a book. There's Darcy's story (the actual story?), and there's Lizzie's story (what's actually Afterworlds, the novel Darcy wrote). And like . . . yeah, if you write a novel, the characters will be living what you write . . . so . . . this tagline is the most useless thing this book could have slopped on the cover. Especially on a book about publishing. 

Book content warnings:
ableist language
cissexim
biphobia

Okay, so the book alternates both "stories"/PoVs, making it very frustrating to get into either of them. Plus, Darcy's story could be told without Lizzie's - a contemporary novel about a young YA author who gets published and falls in love, etc., but Lizzie's story could Not exist without Darcy's. Not because of the Obvious fact that Darcy wrote it, but because (no offense to the fictional character Darcy) it sucks. Which then makes Darcy's story harder to be interesting, because her life . . . is all about her "bestselling" book.

Darcy Patel is an 18yo Indian-American (whose family life is actually one of the more interesting aspects of this whole package here) who wrote an entire book in NaNoWriMo. It's a rough draft, but she decides to query it off to a literary agency anyway. Just one agency, just one letter. And wow! The agent signs her in 17 DAYS - and Darcy gets a 100k advance! (what??) And then this big-shot agent lets Darcy stay in her NY apartment while she's on vacation until Darcy finds an apartment of her own.

If this seems suspiciously strange and more than a bit insulting to aspiring writers everywhere - then yeah, that's how I felt, too. 

Throughout the entire book, it feels like Darcy just doesn't have to work hard to overcome anything. Isn't that the basis for a plot? Is this just a novel about some girl's sliding through the YA industry - an industry so many people have to work hard to get into - and stay in? I don't know . . . what's happening.

Then there's Imogen Gray, Darcy's love interest. THANK YOU, Imogen, for making this book interesting. Imogen herself isn't a particularly outstanding character, but she brought some interesting dynamic to the book and created a good balance to Darcy's near-narcissism. And when they KISSED. It made me want to swallow all my criticisms of this book, because I haven't read that many great kisses between women in YA, let alone lit at all. 

Speaking of their relationship, though, it brought some problematic things . . . from the characters and (maybe) Scott Westerfeld himself?

Darcy couldn't let it go that she didn't know Imogen Gray's real name, and that it was a pen name used to start fresh after a less-than-perfect past. Chill out. A person's name given to them at birth isn't as important as the name they choose for themselves but apparently Darcy thinks given names are some "real" and "secret" mythical things, I don't know. Maybe it show's Scott Westerfeld's lack of understanding of this age group (like having some 18 year olds saying "squee" and "all the feelings" out loud . . . yikes).

And then we have this awful thing for young bi girls to read:

"So do you only like girls now?" Nisha asked.
"I don't know."
"That answer bores me, Patel. You must look at people now and then. Like, random hotties on the street. Are they ever boys?"
"I don't 
look at anyone else. I don't think about it that way. Maybe I'm Imogen-sexual."
(p. 458)

Darcy became an irritating character about halfway through and onward. Who snoops through their girlfriends closet and then just calls it innocent snooping? She later looks at Imogen's diary on her phone, too, and becomes even more juvenile. She misses the deadlines for literallyeverything. Her college, lease, nearly her draft, etc. And then she blames all this on the universe being arrayed against her, I SWEAR. (This is her character growth, too.) Maybe that explains how unlikable her book and her book's characters are.

Darcy's novel is a typical paranormal romance, starting off with a bang (a terrorist attack), which results in the protagonist, Lizzie, becoming a "grim reaper", of sorts. Then she meets another gorgeous psychopomp, falls in love, and makes a bunch of terrible choices. Including (view spoiler)Nobody's actions make sense, nobody is relatable. And worst of all, it adds nothing to Darcy's story. 

So I'm just left feeling confused about everything.

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