Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld (book review) – transforming death, embracing life

book cover of Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld published by Simon TeenOne book with two stories, two heroines.
Two girls, one creating the other.

Lizzie’s plunge into the realms of death and love underscores her creator’s path from aspiring high school writer to published YA author as Darcy Patel discovers what so many authors have told me: writing is hard, but rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting) is so, so much harder.

Scott Westerfeld’s new novel isn’t a tale of writing, but a twinned narrative about rewriting a novel and rewriting a life short-circuited by not-death. Love is a prominent and problematic feature of both stories, a great deal like real life where the darn details of everyday can get in the way of what’s really important.

Releasing on September 23 (most new media goes on sale on Tuesdays…), Afterworlds  will get big buzz because Scott is a big YA author – and because this big two-in-one volume is that good.

Book info: Afterworlds / Scott Westerfeld.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Deferring college for a year to rewrite her first novel, Darcy is excited to move away to New York City, exhilarated to find love, and mystified about how she can craft her story’s ending that her editor requires in this novel-within-a-novel.

On a routine trip between her divorced parents, Lizzie is trapped in a doomsday terrorist attack, plays dead so the killers will ignore her, and discovers that she can now sense ghosts – so begins the mystical love story that Darcy wrote to add to her college applications (2000 words a day for a month makes a 60,000 word novel).

Her family’s Indian heritage provides the mythic basis for this afterworld, a tragic incident from her mother’s hometown inspires the ghost girl in Lizzie’s house, but Darcy invents handsome Yamaraj, who has been living among the dead for centuries, confirms that Lizzie is a psychopomp who helps dead spirits cross over, and falls in love with her.

Guided by an agent, a publisher, and a math-savvy little sister to watch her budget, Darcy feels even luckier when fellow writer Imogen hand-holds her through apartment-hunting and then holds onto her heart.

As they both plunge into rewrites of their very different young adult novels, Darcy and Imogen walk an emotional tightrope between togetherness and writing time. As Lizzie and Yamaraj fall in love, she ignores his warning against seeking vengeance while trying to comfort a little dead girl.

Two complete and compelling novels intertwined in a single volume = Afterworlds.

What do you think?

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