Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield, review by Melissa Fox
I suppose I should put this disclaimer at the front: this new YA novel from Scott Westerfeld is more than 600 pages long. That's enough to deter eve the most ardent fan.
However, it's really two books in one.
Half of the book is an intense paranormal terrorist/murder story. Lizzie, a high school senior, is traveling back to California after visiting her father in New York City, and terrorists attack her airplane. She is the only one to survive the attack, which she does by playing dead. After the trauma of the experience, Lizzie discovers that she can see ghosts. But it's more than that: she is a psychopomp, a valkyrie, a person who helps the dead find peace. And she's in love with the underworld's lord, Yamaraj.
The other half of the novel is about Darcy, who "wrote" the Lizzie half of the book during NANOWRIMO her senior year. And, because this is the way things work, her debut novel got it snapped up by a major publisher for a 6 figure advance. Suddenly, Darcy's life is turned upside down, and she decides that college is not what she wants to do after graduation. Instead, she moves to New York City and is thrust head first into the crazy world of YA publishing.
The chapters alternate between the two stories, and while each one is compelling individually, it's the connection between the two stories that provides the most fascinating reading. I thoroughly enjoyed the way Darcy would angst over her book and how she came up with the ideas that would show up in Lizzie's half. It was fascinating to see the way Darcy's life impacted the book and how decisions she makes early on show up much later
in Lizzie's portion. It's a different kind of foreshadowing, and one that kept me turning pages.
It's an engrossing read, for all it's 600 pages, and one that I found I couldn't put down.