Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Published September 23rd 2014 by Simon Pulse
Hardcover: 599 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars
Afterworlds follows a book within a book style, alternating every other chapter. The first story follows fresh out of high school Darcy, who recently signed with a literary agent and is awaiting the publication of her debut paranormal romance novel Afterworlds. The second book follows Lizzie, the protagonist of Darcy’s novel.
As a writer who someday hopes to publish my own books, of course this premise drew me in right away. The book followed Darcy through her publishing journey which was super interesting to read about. The structure of the novel was also partially what drew me in. I love when books have a unique timeline or setup.
And although I did really enjoy the book, I had three main issues with it.
First, the length.
Don’t get me wrong, usually I love big books. Most of the time, it’s the bigger the better. But for Afterworlds, it was essentially a 600 page contemporary novel, which felt really excessive. I flew through the first 100 pages or so, but as I reached the middle, I felt like the novel was dragging and running out of steam. It just didn’t feel like it needed to be that long.
The second issue I had was the book within the book—the one following Lizzie. I’m not sure if Westerfield intentionally tried to make this book sound like it was written by an 18-year-old girl or what, but I felt like these chapters were not as well-written as the rest of the book. In fact, I found some sections downright cheesy and it was all I could do not to roll my eyes. The romance was laughable and besides the gripping first chapter, I felt like the book lacked urgency and direction.
The third issue was the main character, Darcy. While I liked Darcy, I found myself frustrated with her more often than not. I know what Westerfeld was going for—an 18-year-old girl who makes mistakes and is trying to grow up—but that really doesn’t excuse the downright stupid things this girl does. She moves to New York city to write the sequel to her novel after getting her advance, and she has a clearly set out budget that will allow her to live in the city for two years.
She completely throws that budget out the window, buys the most expensive apartment she can find, blows her money on ridiculous spending sprees, and never even starts writing the second novel. Then, she proceeds to miss all of her deadlines—both for the book and for deferring college applications. I can forgive a few mistakes and lapses of judgement, but this girl just made stupid decision after stupid decision that made me want to crawl inside the pages and shake her by the shoulders.
Overall, however, I did enjoy the book. It was an interesting premise and despite dragging in the middle, I flew through this book pretty quickly. If you’re a patient reader, I think you’ll really enjoy this one, especially if you’re interested in the publishing industry.
Let me know if you’ve read Afterworlds or plan on picking it up!