Scott Westerfeld
ISBN 9781481422345
Simon Pulse/S&S, 2014.
5 stars
Keywords: afterworlds creativity diversity family paranormal pshcyopomp romance scott-westerfeld writing-process

by Scott Westerfeld

In an extraordinary feat, Scott Westerfeld (So Yesterday) devises a complete novel within a novel: his tale about 18-year-old Darcy Patel, who's publishing her first young adult novel, as well as the paranormal romance--in its entirety--that Darcy is writing, called Afterworlds. They alternate chapter by chapter, and both will grip readers.

Darcy's story unfolds in the third person from her point of view, and opens with "the most important email [she] ever wrote," to a literary agency, resulting in a two-book deal "for an astonishing amount of money." Readers first meet her heroine, narrator 18-year-old Lizzie Scofield, when she survives a terrorist attack in an airport and emerges with the ability to travel between the real world and what comes after, on the River Vaitarna. We learn the rules of this fictional world: how the river works, the importance of names, Lizzie's romance with Yama ("a smoldering Vedic psychopomp"), what keeps ghosts "alive" and what destroys them. Although we are reading the finished version of Lizzie's story, in Darcy's chapters we learn about how others' responses to her early drafts affect the revision process.

Westerfeld masterfully sets up the parallels between Darcy's love interest and Lizzie's romance, as well as Darcy's relationship to Lizzie, in such a way that a rippling in any of them affects all of them. He offers an experience of the creative process that allows many entry points for his fans, for writers and for teachers of writing and literature.

This review first appeared in
Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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