Reviews from a Reader: Afterworlds


From Scott Westerfeld, the author who brought the world of Uglies to life, comes “Afterworlds.” This book is a unique and original book that simultaneously tells the tales of two different protagonists. “Afterworlds” is special in that it has both a layout of alternating chapters and it is written as a book within a book. The reader will discover that the protagonist writes the second, inner story in present time throughout the outer plot.

The first narrator, Darcy, is a fledgling writer entering the publishing world of New York City at the age of 18. As she matures and adapts to her newfound fame and her unconventional life, she must gain a sense of confidence in herself in the face of criticism and answer personal questions about her relationships and her sexuality. Westerfeld does not shy away from this controversial topic but rather explores the mentality of a teenager entering the world independently for the first time, the mentality of a girl who is forced to determine  her identity.

Lizzie, the 17-year-old protagonist, has a fantastic story of her own. After a terrorist attack at an airport, she finds herself caught between two worlds. She only manages to survive the attack by literally willing herself to die for a short period of time. This experience opens her eyes to the world of the dead. However, she retains the ability to shift from one realm to the other, since the spirit world is overlaid upon the regular world. Lizzie finds out she is a spirit guide, whose job it is to reap and save souls. One of the guardians of the spirit world—a character based loosely upon the God of death from Hindu scriptures—is Yamaraj, who introduces Lizzie to her role as a spirit guide. Lizzie must learn to balance both worlds as she is drawn increasingly into the realm of spirits and needs to control her swiftly growing powers before they overwhelm her and cause her to lose her humanity.

The book was originally introduced by a humorous mock attack ad created by Simon & Schuster, under the name of “The Committee to Protect YA.” The advertisement included clips from John Green, Gayle Forman, and other famous authors.

“Afterworlds,” thankfully, has a fresh premise. It is a fantasy novel without the hackneyed werewolves, vampires, and zombies characteristic of many of today’s hottest YA fantasy books and series. It has an honest and a mysterious side, and is unafraid to tackle some of today’s most pertinent problems.