Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

I wanted to like it. I really did. I loved The Uglies series by Westerfeld when I was younger. I’ve heard many great things about Afterworlds. 

It is awful. I absolutely hated it. I almost just put it down as a DNF.

The book is separated into two parts. There’s Darcy’s chapters, which take place in the real present day world, primarily in New York where she lives as a teenage, almost published, writer. Then there’s Lizzie’s chapters which consist of the fictional story Darcy wrote, about a girl who can see ghosts & navigate the flipside after her brush with death.

The beginning actually isn’t that bad. Lizzie’s section is intriguing, realistic, & exciting. But as Darcy often comments about her own novel, the first chapter is kind of the best part & the rest is immature fluff. It’s like reading awful fanfiction. A lot of people liked Darcy’s sections better. I was hoping since I loved the description of Lizzie’s parts that’d I’d have a differing opinion, but the writing is just bad. Many sentences were written in a matter-of-fact type of way. I couldn’t get past it.

Darcy’s parts were a little better & the reason why I didn’t give up on the book. But they still become less & less interesting. It develops into a story more about relationships than the fun of a young teenager being published.

I feel like this is such a good concept & could’ve been executed much better. The characters don’t develop all that much. The story arc is practically nonexistent except, obviously, for the progress in time. The language is juvenile that at times it sounds pedantic. It can be humorous, but a lot of the jokes fall short & try too hard to be clever & quirky.

I like that the main relationship is between two women, but I wish it was a bit more convincing. The character motives for their jealousy or privacy are thin.

I also like the more “writerly” bits. The characters quote Oscar Wilde & learn the difference between half title & full title pages in print books. They attend a YA drinks night & make up fun ideas such as a YA writer’s heaven. It’s cute & most readers would probably love to imagine themselves in Darcy’s position: talking, reading, & writing books with other people who just want to do the same.

There’s a section when they discuss the five elements of a story at a book talk that I found amusing & liked. However, when Darcy argues the main element is conflict I almost laughed. This book has minimal conflict. There’s almost no risk of our characters losing anything. It’s boring.

I would definitely recommend some of Westerfeld’s other books over this one. I don’t know if he purposely wrote Lizzie’s sections to sound like they were being written by an inexperienced writer, or if the plot & style were really just that awful. But the way The Uglies unfolds in infinitely better.

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