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Book Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

This summer has been the summer of Ramen noodles at my house, which is a continual reminder to me that I need to write my review for Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. What, you may ask, does Ramen noodles have to do with Scott Westerfeld’s newest title? It was here that I learned that there are expensive Ramen noodles served in New York restaurants. Having grown up in a home where we ate (and we eat)  Ramen because we were income challenged, I was stunned to learn that they were served in restaurants and that they could be expensive. I was also stunned to learn that various things that people do with Ramen noodles. But that, I suppose, is a post for another day. 

Afterworlds is really two novels in one. It is the story of a teen author, Darcy Patel, who is writing and publishing her first novel. Told in alternating chapters, each chapter of Darcy’s journey to get published is juxtaposed with a chapter from the novel that Darcy is writing. One of the most interesting parts of this book is seeing how the real world life of Darcy effects the novel that she is writing.

Darcy’s novel is titled “Afterworld”. In it, we meet Lizzie. Lizzie slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to escape a terrorist attack at the airport late one night. Now, it seems, she can see ghosts. Or something like ghosts as she can slip back and forth from our world into the in between place. There are bad people here, people who are after her, people who want to teach her about this new world.There is a childhood murder mystery, a man who wants to steal the lives of the spirits, and a little bit of romance.

In our world, Darcy is delaying her first year of college and packing up her belongings to move to New York. Here, she delves into the New York YA literary scene, with an in depth look at the journey to being published. She falls in love, she struggles with writers block, she has her heart broken and more. For those looking for more diversity on their shelves, Darcy has a very lovely GLBTQ love story and she is Indian. In fact, at one point she wrestles with whether or not one of the characters she uses in her book is cultural appropriation, an issue that comes up a lot lately in the press for artists like Katy Perry and Iggy Azalea.

It’s an ambitious project, creative in concept and executed superbly. Every teen I have ever seen at an author panel asking all those questions about how do you become a writer will enjoy the insider perspective. 

Robin also read this title. I liked the book portion best, the supernatural story. Robin liked the real world story best. The supernatural story is nice and dark, while the real world story is an interesting look at post high school life and trying to find your own way in a very new world, which coincidentally mirrors the supernatural story. And this is the brilliance of Westerfeld’s novel, the way the two stories are interwoven.

And just for fun, here are 30 Ramen Hacks for you to transform your Ramen noodles. I think it would be great fun to have a book discussion of this title and have a Ramen Cook Off. Or to display the book with some Ramen cookbooks. That’s right, it turns out there are some Ramen Cookbooks.

Coming in September from Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9781481422345

Afterworlds has received starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly. Highly recommended.

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