Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

AfterworldsAfterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Published by: Simon Pulse on September 23, 2014
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 608
Source: BookExpo America
Book Details
Rating: ★★

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

Let’s clarify some terms

Before we begin, I need to set down some terminology for my review. As you probably know, the book Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld is two books in one, told in alternating chapters. One story is that of Darcy, a soon-to-be-published YA author. The story is about her selling her book, doing rewrites, and drafting the next book in the series. The other story is about Darcy’s book. We actually get to read it. However, just to confuse things, that ‘story within the story’ is also called Afterworlds.

From this point on out, please abide by the following definitions:

  • This book — Refers to the ‘real’ published book Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld.
  • Afterworlds — Refers to the ‘story within the story’, which is the YA paranormal book that Darcy writes.


This book had a lot of potential. For the most part (except towards the end), I liked the contemporary, YA author story. It was cool to watch an author go through the world of publishing. But, for the most part, I hated the story she was writing (Afterworlds).

The paranormal ghost story (Afterworlds)

I hated it. Every single time I got to one of these chapters, I asked myself the same question:

Can I skip this chapter? Will the book still make sense if I don’t read the whole ‘Afterworlds’ part of the book?

I never did skip a chapter, but much to my dismay, I could have. Now, looking back, I’m screaming at myself for NOT skipping because IT WAS POINTLESS! Even at the end, the Afterworlds part of the book never actually felt important. Everything still would have made sense if that part of the book was stripped out.

But anyway…

I don’t like ghost stories

To be fair, I never gave the Afterworlds part of the book much of a chance. I did like the first chapter with the terrorist attack, but once it turned paranormal, I wasn’t interested anymore. But, I think a large portion of that is on me: I don’t like ghost stories. That’s just a preference I have. Some people don’t like sci-fi, some don’t like contemporary, some don’t like romance… I don’t like ghost stories. And Afterworlds was definitely a ghost story.

Lamest Twilight-inspired romance ever

But on top of that, it was also a romance… sort of. I got the idea that it was supposed to be a romance. Lizzie meets a “hot, shiny boy” and gets a bit gaga for him.

Even in that awful moment, I could see that he was beautiful. He shone somehow, as if sunlight were breaking through the mist, just for him. He was one of those boys with a perfect jaw, who looks stunning when he’s clean shaven, but just that little bit more handsome with the barest shadow of stubble.
Afterworlds, page 24

They never really have a “we are now dating” or “will you go out with me?” moment; they just kiss a few times and then suddenly that’s the norm. It was horrible! It was so insta-lovey, but without any actual love. It was more like “insta-kiss-and-now-our-lips-are-glued-together-but-we-aren’t-in-love”. How’s that for confusing?

His lips pressed against mine, and a wave of heat floored into me.
Afterworlds, page 31

Look at that: first kiss on page 31. And that’s after like two chapters of the contemporary story (so more like page 15).

Is there a personality in there?

But for me, I think the worst part of this Lizzie/Yamaraj romance was the fact that YAMARAJ HAD NO PERSONALITY!!! The guy was such a polite, faceless blank slate. He had no emotion, no personality, nothing! He just existed, spoke a few words now and then, and sparkled like a Twilight vampire.

The contemporary “YA Author” story

I started out quite enjoying the “YA author on the rise” part of this story. I thought it was really cool to see a young author enter the world of publishing. I loved reading about the “YA drink night” she was invited to, receiving the notes from her editor, being on deadline. I have no idea how accurate it was, being that I’m not an author myself, but it was fun to read about nonetheless.

Then a romance kicked in.. out of NOWHERE! I didn’t see it coming. There was no build up, no flirting, no hints, nada! Then it just slammed into the story full force. For a while, that turned me off the contemporary part of the story because at first there was just no chemistry; it was so insta-lovey (again). Eventually it did win me back over.. for a while.

The fact that I hated the paranormal story weakened the book overall

Really disliking the paranormal “story within the story” made me like the “YA author” story even less. The YA author part was about this girl writing, selling, and publishing her book Afterworlds. At first I loved this because it was so interesting to read about an author’s journey through the publishing world. But as the book went on and as I read more of Afterworlds, I began to hate Afterworlds more and more. That made it almost awkward to read the contemporary part of the story. How could I be excited with Darcy if I hated her book? Had I actually picked up her version of Afterworlds at BEA (without the contemporary YA author chapters), I would have DNF’d it. It almost made me laugh that she sold her duology for $300,000 and it was a freaking shit book.

Then as the book came to its final 100 or 200 pages, I realized two things:

  • 1. Sometimes it felt like the romance had a bigger focus than the writing/author part of the story, and that annoyed me.
  • 2. Darcy was young and immature.. and that annoyed me even more.

Why did the romance have to take over?

This is rare for me to actually say, but I was pissed that the romance started taking over. The big, central conflict of the story wasn’t really about writing or publishing; it was about the romance having a hitch. Ugh.

Darcy is too young and careless to be living on her own

And Darcy started a pathetic spiral down into “idiot” territory. At the beginning of the book, her sister gave her a budget. She had $100,000 from her advance and two years to live in New York. Her sister said: spend $x on rent and $x per day on living (food, etc.). Well, Darcy did the following:

  • Got an apartment out of her price range (like $1k per month over or something)
  • Ate out at expensive restaurants like EVERY FREAKING NIGHT. So she went waaay over her “spend $x per day on living” budget. Seriously, have you heard of cooking?
  • Missed her writing deadlines and begged for extensions.
  • Missed her uni deadlines.
  • Missed her lease renewal deadline.

Seriously, is she trying to prove to the world that she’s too young to start a career and live on her own? Her lack of common sense and independence started to really piss me off.

Give me another book about the life of an author

I absolutely LOVE that idea for a book, and there were certainly bits in this book that I enjoyed. It was a lot of fun to read about the writing process, meeting (or missing) deadlines, having ARCs for BookExpo America, and so on. But I was disappointed to see the romance take over that awesome part of the book. And even more so, I was disappointed to find that half the book was both boring as shit and completely unnecessary.

The Verdict


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  1. This makes me so nervous. πŸ™ I’m really looking forward to this book, but I have wondered what would happen if I didn’t like the book within the book. Sounds like I can skip those chapters if that happens. I think the concept is really interesting, but I guess I’m a bit worried that it might be too much going on in one book you know? I guess we will see. Sorry you didn’t like it!

    Rebecca @ The Library Canary recently posted: Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island
    1. Yeah you really won’t be missing anything at all if you skip the book within the book chapters.

    1. I haven’t actually read anything else by Scott Westerfelt, so this was my first experience. But I’ve heard nothing but great things about Uglies!

  2. Whoa. This is the longest review I’ve read from you in a *while*. The initial concept does sound really cool, but I can see why you’d be put off by all the other stuff that got in the way.

    Question: I see you tagged “LGBT,” but there was no mention of it in the review (unless I somehow overlooked it?). Can I ask why?

    1. The romance in the ‘YA author’ part of the book was LGBT. I really didn’t see that coming. πŸ˜›

  3. That sounds as awesome as it sound weird.. πŸ™‚ I mean the initial idea could be somehow cool, but then? The biggest problem I have is that I usually pretend that the book I’m reading is real. Yeah, I do that in my head – but that is the way I’m reading. Now, with a book within a book – it can’t feel real anymore. Do I make any sense?

    Needless to say – going to pass on this!

    DannyBookworm recently posted: The Game Series by Eve Silver – Book 2 Push

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