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Literature / Afterworlds

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Afterworlds is a 2014 Young Adult novel by Scott Westerfeld. It is a work of meta-fiction about writing YA.

Darcy has beaten the odds as an eighteen-year old Indian writer, selling two young-adult novel books and getting a huge advance. Instead of going to Oberlin, she defers college to move to New York, revise Afterworlds in time for the publication date, and bond with fellow "debs."

In said novel, Lizzie almost dies during a terrorist attack at an airport; she ends up in an afterlife with a hot death god. Although he tells her to forget and to return to her normal life, she can't after seeing ghosts.


Tropes for this book include:

  • Ascended Fangirl: Darcy after getting her book deal meets all the young adult authors that she has read, including Kiralee Johnston.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In-universe Lord Yama in the Vedas and in Indian comics is often portrayed as a dark-skinned Scary Black Man, usually with horns. Darcy bases her version of Yama on an unnamed Bollywood actor.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Averted with Lizzie and Yama, played straight with Darcy and Imogen.
  • Artistic License: In-universe example; Darcy makes up various details about Yama, including how he became a death god.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Darcy eventually decides on this for her book, instead of the original Downer Ending and the Focus Group Ending that her editor wants. Yama lives, at the cost of Agent Reyes's life, he and Lizzie have broken up due to her murdering the man that killed Mindy, but he offers hope that one day enough time will pass that he will forgive her for such a thing. Lizzie also realizes there are other psychopomps like her who aren't evil, and she realizes that she can help ghosts move on.
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    • For Darcy, she's losing her apartment, is running out of money, and has no college plans whatsoever, but Afterworlds has a promising start, she write a decent draft for a sequel, and eventually she and Imogen reconcile.
  • Bollywood Nerd: Zigzagged. On one hand, Darcy and Niisha are studious enough so that Darcy gets accepted into Oberlin. On the other hand, Darcy is very fashionable and she doesn't know how to handle finances.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Discussed. Sagan calls it the "Angelina Jolie" paradox, and uses it as an explanation for why Lizzie doesn't find Yama while Googling death gods in the story.
  • Cursed With Awesome: Lizzie as a psychopomp can see dead people, walk through walls, and travel quickly. She also attracts less-than-scrupulous psychopomps that collect ghosts.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Darcy finds this out the hard way. She expects the author's life to be glamorous and filled with days on writing. Instead, as her aunt points out rightly, Darcy realizes that she actually spends most days putting off writing while not having enough money for little mundane items like cleaning supplies. Don't blow your budget in a year with taxes coming up; it's never worth it for a book tour, or for college expenses.
  • Did Not Think This Through:
    • Darcy tries to avoid this by putting her sister Niisha in charge of her budget for moving to New York City. It doesn't work out, because Darcy ignores her budget.
      • She gets a heavy dose of this when cosigning the apartment lease with her aunt; Lalana points out that the seventeen dollars a day for food won't be enough to cover cleaning supplies or cooking implements, which Darcy needs if she likes to cook.
      • For the record, New York City is one of the most expensive cities to live in. Darcy would've been better off living in the suburbs and commuting to meet other writers, so as to save her advance money for a rainy day.
    • Lizzie does this a lot in her story. Yes, investigate the serial killer who kills lots of little girls and leave enough evidence to condemn you when murdering him to gain vengeance for Mindy.
  • Disappeared Dad: Lizzie's parents are divorced, and her dad is a Jerkass.
  • Enemy Mine: Hamelyn, who is Yama's rival psychopomp, will strike deals with his friends or family if it benefits him.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: Darcy receives a $150,000 advance, which in theory is supposed to be living income for three years. She blows through most of it in her first year alone.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Kiralee Johnston, a white writer who used Indigenous Australian creatures in her work, chides Darcy for taking Artistic License with Yama since it might offend other Hindus. Kiralee lampshades this later.
  • Focus Group Ending: Invoked. Darcy's editor wants one for Yama and Lizzie so that Yama doesn't die. Darcy after revising multiple times compromises with a Bittersweet Ending.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Subverted; by the time Darcy find an apartment she likes, rent is 3500 a month! She lets her lease run out in a year after learning that it will go up.
  • I See Dead People: Lizzie gains this power after the terrorist attack. She meets the ghost of her mom's dead friend, Mindy.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Subverted; Darcy gets accepted into Oberlin, and she defers her application to go to New York. She ends up not going at all due to missing both the deferment deadline and the application deadline for next year.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Nisha, as the ending reveals. Although it was her idea to help Darcy defer college and live in New York to rewrite, she reveals that the IRS would be demanding taxes on the income that Darcy no longer has, and financial aid at Oberlin would take that into account.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Lizzie kills Mindy's murderer so that Mindy will no longer be scared or defined by the bad memories.
  • Schmuck Bait: Imogen keeps telling Darcy not to find her old name or look up her old blog. Boy, Darcy should have listened . . .
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Darcy's friends are this after she and Imogen get together.
    • Some of Darcy's fans ship Lizzie and Special Agent Reyes especially after he dies.
  • Story Within a Story: The book alternates between Darcy's novel and her adventures as a newbie writer in New York.
  • Terrible Apartments Montage: Played straight, until Darcy finds a former art studio with a lot of mirrors.
  • The Fettered: Yama proves to be this; although he's been a psychopomp for three thousand years, he has never felt the need to kill. Lizzie, on the other hand . . .
  • Tsundere: Imogen becomes one as she and Darcy start dating.
  • Write Who You Know:
    • In-universe, played straight and then subverted. Darcy wrote Afterworlds after learning that her mother had a dead childhood friend. Nisha finds out it was a different girl with the same name.
    • Scott Westerfeld based Darcy's story off an amalgam of fellow authors' stories in the publishing world. He says that it's hard to identify them as such.


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