Evening all! Today’s young adult ARC, Afterworld by Lynnette Lounsbury, was received from Allen & Unwin Teen in return for an honest review – thanks A&U T!
Afterworld is the story of 15 year old Dominic Mathers’ journey into a life-beyond-life after his untimely demise in a car accident in India. Dom finds himself in the Necropolis, a city that was originally intended as a place of preparation and learning for the newly dead before they attempt to progress to the next stage of their journey in the afterlife, but has degenerated into a place of hopelessness, inertia and eternal waiting for most of its inhabitants. Humans share the Necropolis with the Nephilim, a race that are the offspring of humans and angels. Satarial, leader of the Nephilim, has instigated the spectator sport of the Trials, in which hopeful denizens of the city can compete, and if successful, win the right to move on to the next part of the afterlife, known as the Maze. A loss in the Trials, however will doom the contestant to a fate worse than death.
When Satarial manages to bring Dom’s sister Kaide into the Necropolis while she is still alive, Dom is forced to participate in the Trials. With his Guide Eva and Guardian Eduardo, he just might have a chance to be the youngest person ever to beat the Nephilim at their own game. But then again, he might not!
Read it if:
* your idea of heaven inolves making new friends while picking fruit on a slightly dreary working holiday
* you adhere strongly to the personal motto, “time is money”
* you suspect that being presented with a functional and fashionable accessory (like a fancy new satchel) on your entry to the next plane of existence would go a long way to making up for the untimely nature of your demise
* you’re looking for a cracking good read that will exercise your little grey cells and give you something to chew over while you chew over your breakfast bagel, lunchtime linguini, or other reading-related snack food
Three (serendipitously alliterative!) features about this book struck me while I was reading it – its cohesion, its character development and the cerebral nature of the content. Lounsbury has created an amazingly detailed imagining of an afterlife in this book and the world-building hangs together flawlessly. There was never a point at which I had to question how the world worked or a description that jarred me out of my disbelief suspension. When writers get that bit right, it becomes very hard for me to put a book down. Score one to Lounsbury!
Another really enjoyable afterthought of the book was the thoughtful character development. All of the main group of characters in Afterworld, bar one I felt, had depth – and even the one who could have done with a little more complexity had enough twists and red herrings in her plot trajectory to prevent me from dismissing her out of hand. While there was a little bit of repetition in the behaviour of the characters – Dom and Eva tend to “smirk” a lot, and Kaide spends 95% of her time in a “laugh” – the dialogue, motivations and changes of heart of the characters seemed genuine and believable. In-depth characterisation can be one of the things that’s often missing in YA novels, replaced by cliched villains and ordinary heroes, so I was happy to find it here. It wasn’t the greatest part of the story (that was undoubtedly the world-building), but it allowed the concepts to be accessed more easily.
I did not find this book to be a light read. At over 400 pages, it was never going to be quick either, but the way the author has woven multiple ideas and religious traditions into one cohesive vision of an afterlife really makes for a thought-provoking read. Or maybe that should be a thought-promoting read….Afterworld has enough heft in the storyline and world-building to give those interested in theories about the misadventures (or otherwise) of those who have shuffled off this mortal coil some new fodder to argue about. The proof that I received had set the suggested age range at 13 to 18 years, but I really think this is a book that older teens will get the most out of.
Afterworld definitely offers a reading experience that is different from your average paranormal-type YA adventure. If you’re looking for something that requires you to engage your brain as you read, then it might be the book for you. It’s due to be published in February, so for now it’ll be one to pop on your TBR list.
Oh, and don’t forget to consider signing up for the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – YA books are most welcome. BYO funky safari hat.
Until next time,