Afterworlds Paperback – Import, 25 September 2014
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- Publisher : Simon & Schuster Childrens Books (25 September 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 608 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1471122565
- ISBN-13 : 978-1471122569
- Item Weight : 272 g
- Dimensions : 13 x 3.9 x 19.7 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #425,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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I suspect that I wouldn't have particularly enjoyed either of these stories anywhere near as much if they were standalones. The paranormal novel was a fun but very standard example of its genre, and I'm not usually a massive fan of contemporary YA. But together, they worked brilliantly. I found it fascinating to see how the paranormal novel changed in response to both edits requested by Darcy's editor and her own life experiences. I've several books with extracts of a character's writing in them, but never one that gives you the whole book.
The paranormal sections were both a gentle mockery of and loving homage to the genre, while the "real" sections were a bit of an ode to the joys of writing, as well as something of a satire of the modern YA scene. To really enjoy this book, I suspect you've got to have read a few paranormal romances, good and bad, in your time, and either write yourself and/or be very involved in the world of Goodreads, book blogging etc. Some of Darcy's writer friends and rivals were clearly based on real authors - looking at the acknowledgements page might give some clues!
As I writer of paranormal novels myself, I kept veering between amusement and painful recognition. The way that Darcy ruthlessly takes places she's visited and snippets from conversations with friends and personality traits of people she meets and incorporates them into her book was so close to my natural way of working that it really made me smile when things mentioned a few chapters back in the "real" sections subtly cropped up in the paranormal sections. The pain of incorporating editors' comments was also beautifully well done, in particular the on-going debate about whether Darcy was going to change the ending of her novel to make it happier. The one extra thing I'd have liked to see would have been a few snippets of Darcy's first draft - the version we're reading is meant to be the final, published version, and it would be interesting to see how things changed, in particular the ending.
Away from the writing, I also really liked Darcy's romance with a fellow (female) author and the sheer wish-fulfillment fun of her life in New York. To get the most out of this, I think you need to suspend your disbelief with Darcy's own story just as much as with her paranormal novel. Yes, it's a little far-fetched that a very young, first time author would get taken on by the first agent she applied to, given a six-figure, two-book publishing deal, find a nice apartment, get a new circle of cool friends and generally have everything go near-perfectly for her in life and love. But then, it's also a little far-fetched that someone would become a psychopomp and fall in love with a sexy Indian death god, and in a way, I don't think the "real" story is meant to be any more realistic than the "imaginary" one. There are books about struggling writers desperately trying to get a break and that is not what this book is trying to achieve. That said, if just for my self-esteem levels, I might have preferred it if it was suggested that Darcy had tried a few agents before one of them bit or that she'd written another book before the one that sold, or even some suggestion that she'd done lots of editing to start with - she seemed to do NaNoWriMo and then press send!
I can see why not everyone enjoyed this book. The Darcy sections are maybe a little too much like one big in-joke for anyone who doesn't know what NetGalley is, and the paranormal novel sometimes treads a fine line between its need to be enjoyable in its own right and its need to show the faults with Darcy's writing and feel like a first novel. Personally though, this is one of my favourite books in a long time and really helped to remind me both of how hard writing can be, and of how much I love to do it.