Between the living and the dead: Scott Westerfield’s thrilling new novel Afterworlds

Image via official Scott Westerfield site)
Image via official Scott Westerfield site)

 

An interesting has happened to my reading patterns of late.

Long held in thrall by adult fiction and deeply-detailed non-fiction tomes, it’s now increasingly finding room for quite a few Young Adult (YA) novels such as those by John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking trilogy), helped along in part by teenage nieces who are eagerly devouring every word they can from these two brilliant writers, and many more besides.

It’s all been a pleasant surprise – not because I didn’t expect YA fiction to be clever, witty, substantial and captivating; I knew from close writer friends that it’s all that and then some, but because I thought I was long past the age of reading books that are, strictly speaking aimed at people considerably younger than myself.

It is, of course, one of the genres at the moment, waving a ride of talented authors who seem to be able to link directly into the turbulent psyche of the average teen but by Hollywood’s obsessive interest, evidenced by the flurry of recent YA movie releases such as the Hunger Game trilogy (based on the books of Suzanne Collins),the Twilight series (Stephenie Meyer), Divergent (Veronica Roth), and the just-released Maze Runner, which draws on the book of the same name by James Dashner.

And so it makes sense it would have to come to my attention sooner or rather later, but my recognition and enjoyment of YA literature has also been given a boost by the inventive marketing being used to promote them, in the case of Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield (Simon and Schuster USA/Penguin Australia), a lavish, beautifully-produced book trailer which resembles one of the current crop of YA films in the theatre than the usual promo videos that accompany most book releases.

 

(photo by Samantha Jones, 2002 via official Scott Westerfield site)
(photo by Samantha Jones, 2002 via official Scott Westerfield site)

 

Quite apart from its engaging book trailer, Afterworlds comes with a suitably gripping otherworldly premise:

Darcy Patel has put college on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. With a contract in hand, she arrives in New York City with no apartment, no friends, and all the wrong clothes. But lucky for Darcy, she’s taken under the wings of other seasoned and fledgling writers who help her navigate the city and the world of writing and publishing. Over the course of a year, Darcy finishes her book, faces critique, and falls in love.

Woven into Darcy’s personal story is her novel, Afterworlds, a suspenseful thriller about a teen who slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack. The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead, and where many unsolved—and terrifying—stories need to be reconciled. Like Darcy, Lizzie too falls in love…until a new threat resurfaces, and her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she cares about most. (synopsis via and (c) Simon and Schuster)

It’s a clever, post-modern narrative device, one that fits in nicely with the sorts of novels that Westerfield, who splits his time between New York City and my hometown of Sydney, Australia, excels at – interesting premises (the Ugly series for instance is set in a world where cosmetic surgery is mandatory once you reach 16, making an untouched face a thing of rebellion) superbly executed with characters that come alive and fairly spring off the page.

There’s no reason to believe that Afterworlds won’t follow in the footsteps of his other New York Times bestselling series such as Leviathan when it is released on 23 September in USA and 24 September in Australia but until we have a chance to read this eagerly-waited novel, there is always the matter of that book trailer, which is a engrossing tale unto itself.

 

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