Author: Scott Westerfeld
Review: Telling two stories in one book has always been and will always continue to be a fairly common practice for writers. In most instances, it is a successful method by which authors can expand the scope of the novel and cross generations, cultures, genders, borders, and every other limitation set by science and the human mind. With Afterworlds, Mr. Westerfeld uses this methodology to cross the very real publishing world with the very imaginary “Afterworld”.
By all accounts, this attempt should work. There is Darcy’s story and her journey into the publishing world. It is intense and scary, heady and uncomfortable. Darcy experiences many firsts as her life unfolds in the city – her first author event, her first love interest, her first apartment, her first job, her first understanding of the grown-up world of paying rent. Darcy herself is likable but naive, determined to succeed in her writing as well as her bout of independence but emotionally unprepared to do so. Her story is an honest coming-of-age story as she graduates from teen to adult with all of the responsibilities and pressures that come with such a role.
Interspersed between Darcy’s story is her first publishing attempt and the reason she is in New York City. While Darcy navigates the unfamiliar adult streets of the Big Apple, readers get to read the story that put her there. Afterworlds by Darcy Patel is a complete story with a killer opening chapter and an imaginative retelling of the underworld myth. It has all of the elements of a young adult paranormal story which makes them so popular.
Unfortunately, by switching back and forth both stories become ineffective. A reader cannot adequately focus on one story or the other because one must shift attention between the narratives too often. Darcy’s scene rewrites lose their importance because readers have already read the final draft. Later, key drama points in Lizzie’s story are less suspenseful because readers already followed Darcy’s discussions with her friends of the very same points of Afterworlds. The entire novel becomes one throughout which readers will experience a constant state of deja vu.
Darcy’s experiences in the New York publishing world are interesting, but one cannot help but wonder if they are not too limiting in scope. For instance, how many teen readers will understand the importance of BookExpo America for new authors, galleys, book tours, and other unique elements of the publishing world? Long-time bloggers, reviewers, and fans of certain YA authors may enjoy watching Darcy struggle in this new world, but one gets the impression that this aspect of the story is solely for that very specific blogger/writer audience. That it is such a large portion of Darcy’s story may turn off some readers, especially as they struggle to shift between narratives.
A reader would better enjoy both elements of Afterworlds if they read each story separately. That way, readers can enjoy Darcy and Lizzie as individuals. They can follow Darcy’s evolution into published writer, can explore with Lizzie the Underworld and her new-found powers, and can allow each girl’s story to ebb and flow as it should, without interruptions. As the novel stands now, the mental adjustments required by readers to shift back and forth between the two stories is too great for most readers to become fully engaged in either Darcy’s New York City or Lizzie’s Afterworld.
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