Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Afterworlds Book Poster Image
Suspenseful paranormal romance pulls off parallel plots.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Although one half of the narrative is given over to a paranormal romance, Afterworlds also deals with the real-world consequences of writing and publishing a first novel. Author Scott Westerfeld illustrates some of the pitfalls of being young, on your own, and trying to navigate the responsibilities of building a writing career in a city such as New York.

Positive Messages

Afterworlds emphasizes that the transition from teen to young adult can be difficult but that it also has many rewards. Honesty and personal responsibility are the qualities that promote happiness and success.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Darcy and Lizzie both are brave and resourceful teens who meet most of the challenges in their lives head-on. Both are impulsive and not the best at long-range planning, but they care about their friends and families and take on significant responsibilities.


Afterworlds opens with a terrorist attack on an airport, in which 87 victims are shot to death. The plot also includes an elderly serial killer haunted by the ghosts of his child victims. One character commits a murder about which she feels justified. In general, however, the violence in Afterworlds is not particularly bloody.


Darcy begins a sexual relationship with a young woman in her early 20s, the physical details of which are not described beyond kissing and cuddling. Lizzie and Yama, her male guide to the afterlife, "hook up," but it's unclear what that means in the afterworld.


Many uses of "damn," "hell," "a-hole," and variations of "f--k."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Although she's underage, Darcy drinks alcohol while partying with older friends. Her girlfriend, who is over 21, comes home slightly drunk in one scene.

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.

User Reviews

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There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 13 years old Written byXinaTurtle August 12, 2015

Wonderful book for ages elleven and up

This book is amazing!!!! Totally worth reading. Anyways their is mild swearing and little violence. There are almost no sexual scenes but half of them is a lesb... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymayam March 18, 2015

Great Book with Original Idea

Switching off chapters between a young up-and-coming author and the book that she's writing, it's exciting and worth every page. Especially if you are... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love paranormal romance and suspense

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