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Afterworlds Kindle Edition
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|Length: 609 pages||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled||Page Flip: Enabled|
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About the Author
From School Library Journal
- File Size : 1916 KB
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Publisher : Simon Pulse; Reprint edition (September 23, 2014)
- Print Length : 609 pages
- Publication Date : September 23, 2014
- ASIN : B00IBHS5LA
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #191,672 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Darcy Patel is a teenager just out of high school who has decided to skip her first year of college to move to New York. Why? Well, of course it's because she has landed herself the book deal of the century with her paranormal YA novel "Afterworlds." But once Darcy is actually in New York, she finds herself spiraling. Suddenly she's 'lying' about her age, relying on her little sister for financial advice and regretting her decision to only bring jeans and white tee shirts with her. While there she meets Imogen who is more experienced than Darcy in every way; writing, love and life. The story depicts the turbulent relationship that Imogen and Darcy have, one that quickly turns to love, and the process that Darcy must go through to not only edit her book, but also grow up.
Meanwhile, every other chapter, Westerfeld is telling the story of "Afterworlds"- the novel that Darcy wrote.
This story is about Lizzie and the Hindu god of Death Yamaraj. After a near death experience at an airport after a terrorist attack, Lizzie is suddenly able to bring herself to the plane of the dead- oh, and see ghosts in the real world. While in the other plane she meets Yamaraj, who isn't quite the god of death that you would expect from a YA novel. Instead he is just a boy who had to learn to maneuver between the planes to keep the memory of his people alive. He warns Lizzie of one thing- believing is dangerous. Lizzie meets an interesting cast of Characters- from the ghost in her closet Mindy, who was her mother's childhood best friend, to the old man who killed her to another man like Lizzie who wishes to tempt her. Of course, as YA novels tend to go, Lizzie makes a lot of really, REALLY bad decisions that both force Yama and her together and tear them further apart. But in the end, much like her creator Darcy Patel, Lizzie must learn to grow up as well.
I didn't realize how much of a genius Scott Westerfeld was until halfway through the book. I read each of the stories for a good tale and nothing more, until I started noticing that not everything Darcy said in the real world matched up with what Lizzie did in the fictional world. There was talk of a castle in the beginning that simply never showed up and scenes that Darcy was debating keeping that I simply never read about. Then Darcy started taking note of words she liked. Volia! Suddenly, in the next chapter of Afterworlds the word was being used. Imogen and Darcy fight about a scene and Volia! The scene is being imbedded in the text.
The meaning of Afterworlds seemed pretty obvious when I first began reading- Darcy grew because she was forced to make Lizzie grow. I was ready for a sweet story that really didn't change my perspective on, well, anything. But Westerfeld took it up another notch. Not only did Darcy and Lizzie grow up, but Darcy's novel grew up. I know, that sounds weird. It does, I'll admit it. But Darcy and Lizzie are both evolving at a pretty average rate for YA protagonists- they're both making a lot of really bad decisions but they're starting to acknowledge that slowly, at least, they are. But somehow the text seems to be evolving by itself. For every bad decision that Darcy makes and learns from, the novel gets miles better. And then another factor is introduced.
Darcy's editor wants a happy ending.
Darcy really struggles with this one. She LOVES the ending of Afterworlds and, frankly, she loves the way her relationship with Imogen is going as well. But things get rocky in her relationship and suddenly her deadline is approaching. And her cash is getting sparse. And her parents don't know that she's a lesbian yet.
By the end of the book, when you're finally able to to read the last words that both Lizzie and Darcy have to say, you feel relieved. It's not happy, it's not sad but it's bittersweet- kind of like life.
And you kind of like it but you kind of hate it.
When Westerfeld describes the cover of Afterworlds as the same cover that's on the book you're holding in your hands, suddenly the entire journey seems worthwhile and you're thinking that the only thing missing is Darcy Patel's name on the cover instead of Scott's (Don't worry Scott- we all know that you're the real genius behind this story.) All the tears and grime that Darcy put into her work suddenly seems worth it because Imogen isn't here but oh my god! Darcy is holding her book in her hands! and you're holding Darcy's book too, in a way. Fully revised and ready for those non-existent bookshelves. So even though Darcy wasted her entire, HUGE advance on noodles, she forgot to sign up for college next year, she'll technically be homeless in a month and she and Imogen have broken up, it's all okay. Lizzie grew up. Darcy grew up. And Afterworlds made it. So everything's okay.
As an aspiring author, I related to a lot of things that this book had to say but I also know that the audience range of this book is bigger than just writer's. It's a good lesson of life, of growing, of understanding. It's knowing that everything you do has a consequence but you won't ruin your life over one mistake. It's growing up but also staying the same. And above all, it's giving everything up for the one thing you're really passionate about, even if you're doubting yourself every step of the way. For Darcy and I, that's the same thing; writing. Telling your story or for Darcy, telling Lizzie's story. Westerfeld created two worlds that I instantly fell in love with. One world that I wished I could be a part of and another that one day I'll know I'll be a part of. He is a weaver of words, a story teller, and I ADORED this book. Five stars and a worthy spot on my bookshelf.
Of course, when you read about something that's so close to you and that you know so much about, you're also going to have your fair share of complaints about how realistically it's portrayed. The whole scenario of a debut author getting a $150,000 deal for her first book and the unwritten sequel is definitely rare, but it's necessary to make the story work, and I guess it works, since the characters themselves keep pointing out how lucky Darcy is. But the deal is made even more unrealistic when you consider that she simply wrote a rough draft, sent it to an agent, and had a book deal 17 days later - in my experience interning at a literary agency (and, you know, having common sense) these types of things tend to take waaaay longer. I also wasn't a huge fan of the portrayal of Darcy's agent - she lets Darcy stay in her apartment when she first comes to NYC, which in itself is... well, not necessarily unrealistic, but again, rare. Darcy describes this apartment, along with everything else her agent owns, as really fancy and expensive. She talks about how unfair it is that her agent is so rich and does the math of how, if an agent makes 15% of each client's advance and royalties, and they have about 35 clients, they'll make a ton of money. But she doesn't seem to consider that most of those clients, unlike her, probably won't get $300,000 worth of advances within the first couple of years. That whole part kind of bothered me.
Asides from the publishing-related stuff, Darcy's story is only okay. I felt kind of ambivalent towards Darcy. I felt for her, but she also frustrated me to no end, because she is incredibly naive and irresponsible, blowing through her money ridiculously fast and generally just not knowing how to be an adult. I'm also not sure how I feel about the romance - Darcy starts a relationship with a fellow author, who happens to be 23, 5 years older than Darcy. Just looking at the numbers, the age difference doesn't bother me, but considering that Imogen has been in the publishing world so much longer, their relationship is somewhat student/teacher-y, which creates for an imbalanced relationship that I wasn't sure how to feel about. Imogen by herself is a complex and intriguing character, but I didn't love her and Darcy together all that much.
Then there's Lizzie's story. I wasn't sure if Lizzie's story would be right for me, since I don't read all that much paranormal, but I loved this premise. It's very unique, and it reads like real life, seamlessly connecting the world we know with paranormal aspects. The whole concept is intriguing, original, and suspenseful, and I loved reading about it. But just like with Darcy's story, I didn't love everything about it: again, I found the romance to be just okay. It's very predictable and kind of forced - of course Lizzie would fall in love with the psychopomp (ghost guide) who saved her. He has an interesting story, but him and Lizzie don't have all that much chemistry. I was also kind of disappointed by the ending: I wanted the stakes to be higher, wanted Lizzie to have to make a bigger decision. Especially since so much of Darcy's story is about deciding how to end Lizzie's story, I found the ending she ended up going with kind of underwhelming, since nothing really happens. It makes sense, since there's supposed to be a sequel, but still.
Even though I had issues with both Darcy's and Lizzie's stories, I still really enjoyed them. Scott Westerfeld's writing is great, letting me get through the whole novel pretty quickly, despite it being a 600-page-long monster of a book. I loved reading about the world of books and publishing from Darcy's point of view, and I really enjoyed Lizzie's unique and suspenseful story, too. I definitely recommend Afterworlds, for fans of both contemporary and paranormal.
Top reviews from other countries
I suspect that I wouldn't have particularly enjoyed either of these stories anywhere near as much if they were standalones. The paranormal novel was a fun but very standard example of its genre, and I'm not usually a massive fan of contemporary YA. But together, they worked brilliantly. I found it fascinating to see how the paranormal novel changed in response to both edits requested by Darcy's editor and her own life experiences. I've several books with extracts of a character's writing in them, but never one that gives you the whole book.
The paranormal sections were both a gentle mockery of and loving homage to the genre, while the "real" sections were a bit of an ode to the joys of writing, as well as something of a satire of the modern YA scene. To really enjoy this book, I suspect you've got to have read a few paranormal romances, good and bad, in your time, and either write yourself and/or be very involved in the world of Goodreads, book blogging etc. Some of Darcy's writer friends and rivals were clearly based on real authors - looking at the acknowledgements page might give some clues!
As I writer of paranormal novels myself, I kept veering between amusement and painful recognition. The way that Darcy ruthlessly takes places she's visited and snippets from conversations with friends and personality traits of people she meets and incorporates them into her book was so close to my natural way of working that it really made me smile when things mentioned a few chapters back in the "real" sections subtly cropped up in the paranormal sections. The pain of incorporating editors' comments was also beautifully well done, in particular the on-going debate about whether Darcy was going to change the ending of her novel to make it happier. The one extra thing I'd have liked to see would have been a few snippets of Darcy's first draft - the version we're reading is meant to be the final, published version, and it would be interesting to see how things changed, in particular the ending.
Away from the writing, I also really liked Darcy's romance with a fellow (female) author and the sheer wish-fulfillment fun of her life in New York. To get the most out of this, I think you need to suspend your disbelief with Darcy's own story just as much as with her paranormal novel. Yes, it's a little far-fetched that a very young, first time author would get taken on by the first agent she applied to, given a six-figure, two-book publishing deal, find a nice apartment, get a new circle of cool friends and generally have everything go near-perfectly for her in life and love. But then, it's also a little far-fetched that someone would become a psychopomp and fall in love with a sexy Indian death god, and in a way, I don't think the "real" story is meant to be any more realistic than the "imaginary" one. There are books about struggling writers desperately trying to get a break and that is not what this book is trying to achieve. That said, if just for my self-esteem levels, I might have preferred it if it was suggested that Darcy had tried a few agents before one of them bit or that she'd written another book before the one that sold, or even some suggestion that she'd done lots of editing to start with - she seemed to do NaNoWriMo and then press send!
I can see why not everyone enjoyed this book. The Darcy sections are maybe a little too much like one big in-joke for anyone who doesn't know what NetGalley is, and the paranormal novel sometimes treads a fine line between its need to be enjoyable in its own right and its need to show the faults with Darcy's writing and feel like a first novel. Personally though, this is one of my favourite books in a long time and really helped to remind me both of how hard writing can be, and of how much I love to do it.