The Afterlife and Publishing

Writing can be a tough endeavor. Publishing can be a rather fickle business. Trust me, I’ve put my feet in both of those interrelated areas throughout my educational career: I have a degree in publishing and tried my hand at writing short stories, poetry, and even a floundering attempt at a novel…and found that writing about the books that I read is far easier, for me, which brings me to the central point of this post. Writing and publishing are drawn together in Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds in a supernatural YA novel within a realistic YA novel.

Darcy Patel, an 18 year old who just finished high school, has a book deal with a publisher for a novel she wrote in the short span of a month, as well as for an another untitled project yet to be written. Lizzie is the sole survivor of a late-night terrorist attack in a Dallas airport because when she played dead like the 911 operator suggested, she actually managed to become dead for a little while. But death didn’t leave Lizzie alone; now she can see and talk with ghosts and traverse into the “flipside” and wander the afterlife with the aid of a hunky Hindu God of Death, Yamaraj. Lizzie, as Darcy’s creation, negotiates many new aspects to her lives (the alive one and the dead one) while Darcy is figuring out who she is while living in New York as a “proper” writer.

It was interesting to have two books in one with chapters alternating from each of the books. I mean, talk about meta–and if there’s something I like, it’s meta (an FYI, which might be TMI, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is my favorite play and it’s ALL meta)! Learning about the writing process and events surrounding the book’s completion and publication while simultaneously reading the final product was a new experience…and I kind of really enjoyed it. Not to mention that it makes me think about how different my life could have been had I dedicated that much effort into the story I began writing when I was just a wee bit younger than Darcy–maybe I would have been a published author…but the reality is, quite acceptably, probably not. But still, it makes you think. The book(s) tackle some larger issues facing society today including same-sex relationships, racial appropriation/representation, terrorism, and death. While there is the opportunity for the various issues to have been underdeveloped due to the saturation of different issues mentioned throughout, I was pleased to find that each issue was, for the most part, adequately addressed.

Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.


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