Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld gives readers two stories. The first is the of Darcy Patel; an 18 year old who completed a 60,000 word novel (also titled Afterworlds) in a month and found herself a publisher who gave her an impressive advance ($300,000). With those in hand Darcy decides to put off college to move to New York and try her hand at being a real adult writer. The other story is Darcy’s novel Afterworlds, which opens with Lizzie in a Dallas airport finding herself in the middle of a terrorist attack. In order to survive she plays dead; a bit too well. Lizzie crosses over (still alive) to the otherside, where she meets Yamaraj, whose life began hundreds of years ago, but he has spent so much time on the otherside, referred to as the flipside, that he still resembles a teenager. Once she returns to the world of the living she is the lone survivor of the terrorist attack and now she is left to deal not only with the ramifications of that fact, but she has left the flipside with the ability to see ghosts.
Other than Afterworlds being Darcy’s novel the two stories remain rather separate. The Afterworlds novel that the reader gets though is Darcy’s finished draft, and it is intriguing to read about Darcy going through the editing process and hearing about scenes and endings that will never be seen. While interesting to hear about Lizzie’s development within the larger novel I’m not sure I would have gotten through Darcy’s novel (featuring Lizzie’s story) on its own. For me Darcy’s real life story, and the people she came in contact with, were far more compelling than Lizzie’s (even with a terrorist attack and a several centuries old death god). Overall though it read quickly for a book that is nearly 600 pages long.