Monday, December 8, 2014
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
If you like: The Brief History of the Dead * writers * YA
In Afterworlds, Darcy Patel has successfully sold her first novel, a product of a successful NaNoWriMo during her senior year of high school. She is thrust into the very grown up world of publishing in New York City and spends her time finding her way around, learning to picture herself as a novelist instead of just a fan, and struggling to find the same passion to write her sequel. Afterworlds alternates chapters between Darcy’s life and her novel. We read the final version of her story, but experience Darcy’s struggles at rewrites and finding her way through the editing process. Finishing the story is just the beginning.
As readers, we long for more and more from our authors. We are unsatisfied having our only connection be the page. We salivate for book tours, author signings, twitter updates, and endless blog posts. It is no longer just the book release -- we want a cover release, a first chapter, everything we can get. If we can encapsulate ourselves in the world our favorite authors have created, it means that we no longer have the leave the story at the end of the book. For Darcy, this is an intimidating process. She is meeting her heroes, and being treated like one of them. She is a near child living in an adult world. Darcy has the creative juice, but living as a writer takes more than that. With a little luck, and the right connections, she is able to lay the foundation for her future, and the future of her series. Working in a creative field is far different from the day-to-day work that most people experiences. Writing requires inspiration, and dealing with the consequences of how you have interpreted that inspiration. A shared experience with friends can feel like stealing when it becomes part of the story. Appropriating a culture can be acceptable, or it can be offensive if the author isn’t careful. Darcy never considered what consequences her muses could have.
Darcy’s story is one of life and death, and not without a little bit of love mixed in. She takes inspiration from her family and their faith. She is somewhat removed from both, which allows her to co-opt them into something all her own. Her story is gripping. Her protagonist, Lizzie, escaped death during a terrorist attack by playing dead, and forges a link with death in the process. Lizzie discovers that death is much closer to our lives than most of the living suspect. We are all haunted by ghosts, whether we know it or not. Ghosts aren’t paranormal creatures seeking to interact, or refusing to let go of their old life. Ghosts are made up of memories and are sustained on the memories of those they have left behind. The more one is remembered, the stronger the imprint that exists on the flipside. This means that they are very much shaped by the perceptions of those who hold them in their memories. They seek out this sustenance and linger around those who remember them best. In essence, we are haunted by those we loved. Knowing that your loved ones aren’t gone as long as you remember them is a comfort. On the other hand, if they are sustained by the memories of those who wish them harm, they are eternally pained. Lizzie doesn’t know yet what happens when one is no longer remembered. She is only just learning what her new role will mean, and what power she has to help the dead.
If you’ve been haunted by the memories of those who are gone, read Afterworlds.
Westerfeld, Scott. Afterworlds. Simon Pulse, 2014. Kindle Edition.