18-year-old Darcy Patel, has landed a major publishing deal with her debut novel, Afterworlds. She defers uni and moves to New York, to face the challenges of rewrites – and an independent, demi-adult life. She’s also plunged into the strange new world of YA publishing – meeting her authorial heroes, falling in love with a fellow debut novelist, and going on a book tour with her fellow writers.
Alongside Darcy’s real-life story, alternate chapters reveal the novel she is working on – a chilling YA paranormal love story. Here, teenager Lizzie is caught up in a terrorist attack and inadvertently pushes herself across to the Flipside – an afterworld of ghosts where she falls for a guardian of the dead, and learns she is also a guardian herself. Returning to her real world means she can now see the ghosts that inhabit it, and is drawn to avenging the innocent shade who haunts Lizzie’s family.
The constant switch between the two stories makes it hard to completely lose yourself in either (though you could of course always read each story straight through), but read alongside each other it’s captivating to recognise how the echoes of Darcy’s life are woven into her novel. The parallel is also clear: rewrites aren’t just
for books, but also for lives.
It might not be the sort of tale Westerfeld fantasy fans would expect, but this double-novel is still pacey and intriguing. Darcy’s story will be catnip to anyone interested in writing a book, and Lizzie’s is genuinely creepy and thrilling. A must for anyone in love with writing and the YA phenomenon, it’ll make you want to grab the nearest scrap of paper and get scribbling yourself.