A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Scott Westerfeld's Afterworlds is a cleverly constructed novel with two plots running in parallel: a coming-of-age story about 18-year-old Darcy starting her career as a novelist on her own in New York; and a paranormal romance plot featuring Darcy's literary creation, Lizzie, who's able to see ghosts and journey to the afterworld. Darcy begins a romance with a woman in her early 20s, and Lizzie "hooks up" with a near-immortal male guide in the afterworld, but the physical aspects of these relationships are not detailed beyond cuddling and kissing. The book begins with a violent scene of a terrorist attack on an airport and later features a showdown with a serial killer, but otherwise it's not particularly bloody. There's strong language, with many uses of "hell," "damn," and variations of "f--k." Darcy drinks while partying with her older friends.
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What's the story?
In one half of AFTERWORLDS, Darcy's living the dream of every would-be novelist. She has a six-figure advance, her own apartment, and two years to complete a revision and a sequel. In the second plot line, Lizzie survives a terrorist attack only to discover that she's forever connected to the afterworld, able to see ghosts and guide some of them to permanent rest. Both Darcy and Lizzie will have to face challenges they can't begin to imagine, with the cost of failure high for each of them.
Is it any good?
Afterworlds is an unusual hybrid of paranormal romance and coming-of-age novel. Author Scott Westerfeld sets himself the challenge of running two separate stories in parallel, making the reader wonder if he'll be able to keep one from overwhelming the other. He mostly succeeds, keeping the humor and social observation at the front of Darcy's story line, while serving up suspense and emotional intensity in Lizzie's book-within-a-book.
If the volume feels a little overstuffed and slightly off-balance, it's probably due to the ambitiousness of Westerfeld's undertaking. But, taken together, the novel's two story lines equal more than the sum of their parts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the fantasy of being a first-time novelist differs from the reality of that career. Would you like to make your living as a writer?
Why are paranormal romances so popular? What do they offer teen readers that other genres might not?
What are some of the challenges of making the transition between being a teen who lives at home and a young adult who manages her own career?
- Author: Scott Westerfeld
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publication date: September 23, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 608
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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