“Afterworlds” by Scott Westerfeld

The best phrase that describes this “book is buy one, get one free.” Scott Westerfled’s “Afterworlds” follows a fictional young author named Darcy whose young adult book is published. The twist is that you not only get a glimpse into Darcy’s life, but also into her character’s life.

Each chapter alternates between Darcy’s life and a section of the book Darcy is writing, “Afterworlds.” The novel-within-the-novel’s plot is centered on Hindu afterlife. Darcy’s character Lizzie is caught in a terrorist attack and finds her way into the Afterworld in order to survive. Because she has touched the land of the dead, she becomes a “psychopomp,”a being that alternates between two worlds and sees ghosts that haunt the earth.

I had extremely high hopes after reading the first few chapters of “Afterworlds.” I was excited by the fact that I was essentially reading two books in one. However, my hopes steadily deflated the further I got through the book. However, I enjoyed this book, and I consider it a satisfying read. I would give it three stars out of five. Unfortunately, there were a few things that I believe were not done well.

Because the book is constantly shifting between two genres, it is hard to be wrapped up in the overall story. Just when I would find myself immersed in one side, the story would do a 180, and I would have to re-focus on a completely different world. This headache could have been avoided by making each story’s section longer than one chapter, lessening the amount of whiplash.

A strong story needs strong characters who undergo development. Darcy and Lizzie went through changes, but none of these changes were strong enough to alter the view of the overall character. Lizzie is more solid, but even she would constantly shift from helpful friend to vengeful “psychopomp.” Darcy is even less developed, causing her character to come across as annoying and wishy-washy. Perhaps this was the intent of Westerfeld, but I need a little more oomph in my characters.

Issues, such as Darcy’s ever-decreasing money supply, were played up throughout the entire book and then never approached at the end. I like my stories to end all tied up with a pretty bow, not filled with plot holes. Talk of Darcy creating a sequel was prevalent throughout “Afterworlds,” so maybe these questions will be answered if Westerfeld creates a sequel.

Now that most of the negative aspects have been addressed, let’s look at the redeeming qualities!

It was extremely interesting to follow the process of publishing a book. As an aspiring writer, this information is valuable to me. For all of the other aspiring writers out there, hopefully this book will be a peek at what is to come.

I also really enjoyed Lizzie’s story line. When I think of a paranormal romance, I automatically think of vampires and werewolves. Westerfeld’s take on Hindu afterlife is refreshing and a good change of pace. The first chapter from Lizzie’s point of view (the second chapter in the overall book) has a killer hook that will have you dying for more, literally.

A lot of struggles I personally face as a writer were also addressed in the book. Darcy’s procrastination frustrated me because I know I do the same thing. Westerfeld also shared words of wisdom through his characters. Imogene, a close friend of Darcy, is also a published writer who collects a myriad of random things to help her writing. For example, Imogene keeps a stack of paint sample cards so that she can use all the different color names in her books.

“Afterworlds” has annoying ticks, but it also has tons of gold nuggets throughout that make it worth the read if you are interested in pursuing writing. Thank you for reading and remember: don’t knock it ‘til you read it!