Dystopian YA Reviews #1 – Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield & The Jewel by Amy Ewing

September 29, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 2 stars, 4 stars, ARC Reviews, Books, Reviews

Dystopian YA Reviews #1 – Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield & The Jewel by Amy EwingAfterworlds by Scott Westerfield
Published by Penguin Australia, Simon and Schuster on September 23, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Dystopian, Fiction, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository
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Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

Michelle’s Thoughts

SCOTT WESTERFIELD IS GENIUS—if you didn’t know that already. Afterworlds was fantastic. Scott Westerfield truly captured the image of two point of views; what it’s like to be a writer and what it’s like to be written about. What YA book can you think of that brings you through a young author’s experience of writing a YA novel? It’s basically a book inside a book, and by the end, I was truly mind-blown with the stellar ending.

Darcy Patel is a young aspiring author who deferred college for a year and moved to New York City to broadcast and change her entire life to something new. Her novel that she wrote in a month, Afterworlds, is soon to be published and as it’s becoming edited and all, she’s spending her time meeting new people and learning the ways of authors and the whole lifestyle. As soon as she’s got everything figured out, other feelings such as her sexuality and confidence begin to come out..

At the same time, we’re reading another point-of-view of Lizzie—the protagonist in Darcy’s novel. Lizzie survived a terrorist attack in an airport, and is brought into the ‘Afterworld.’ The Afterworld is a world between the living and the dead, and Lizzie soon finds out that she can switch between worlds whenever she’d like. All it takes is a calling, and she’ll end up in a world where aging is not possible. Of course, she meets new people and everything changes as she begins to find more about the unbelievable world that she’s caught in.

As this book was basically split into two, I preferred reading from Darcy’s POV. Since Westerfield is the master of publicity and being popular, he really provided some awesome insight on how everything works and the datelines. It was more fascinating than Lizzie’s POV, probably because of even her character. He just did it perfectly. DARCY EVEN WENT TO BEA!

But there were some things that I didn’t catch well. The overall beginning was fantastic, but as I surpassed page 100, the story got slow and I was wanting something that didn’t look like it was going to happen.

I guess it was mainly Lizzie’s story’s fault. The actual story of Afterworlds wasn’t everything that I hoped it’d be. Tweaks were missing and as a whole, compared to Darcy’s, it was lacking of. The idea was unique (I’ve never read about a terrorist attack before), and it seemed inspirational coming from the reason Darcy wrote it and all.

THIS BOOK WAS DIVERSE, which was another reason why this book was so unique and consisting of everything I want in a contemporary-dystopia. This man totally knows how to mix it up for readers. 😉

And the romance? SQUEEE. It was amazing and totally surprising—in both POVs. Darcy and Imogen had such an amazing chemistry and had so much alike—I love the same-sex romance, because Westerfield just creates it on-point.

Now that I think about it, I wish there were some quotes I can share with you… The writing was believable and alluring. I was captivated from page 1.

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Darn it. THIS IS A STANDALONE! *cries to self* Although this was a chunky book of 600 pages, I WANTED MORE. That’s how I felt with Uglies by Westerfield, and now that the time is here, I’m grieving. If you love contemporary, fantasy, and a little sci-fi mixed together with diversity and uniqueness (really, who doesn’t?) then this book will come to you like a literature masterpiece. There were a few tweaks needed here and there, but it overall was very enjoyable and recommended to others!

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster Canada and Penguin Books Australia in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

The Jewel CoverThe Jewel by Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Published by Walker Books Australia on September 4, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

“Today is my last day as Violet Lasting. Tomorrow I become Lot 197.”

The Jewel is a shocking and compelling new YA series from debut author, Amy Ewing.

Sold for six million diamantes, Violet is now Surrogate of the House of the Lake in the centre of the Lone City, the Jewel. Her sole purpose is to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess – a woman Violet fears and despises.

Violet is trapped in a living death, her name and body no longer her own. She fights to hold on to her own identity and sanity, uncertain of the fate of her friends, isolated and at the mercy of the Duchess.

The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Other Boleyn Girl in a world where beauty and brutality collide.

Jeann’s Thoughts

I actually liked The Jewel at the start, until it devolved into a YA romance disaster.

The setting and concept was actually pretty interesting, with a weird and chilling concept about lowerclass women with powers who become breeders for the royalty of the Jewel. This distinct violation of women’s rights is completely wrong, but these women have to do it because their families are barely scraping by. They are pretty much torn away from their homes when they start having their period, and taught how to command their powers (or augurs), then auctioned off to the royalty where they get bought, then forced to become a surrogate for a baby and treated like a doll with no name.

“They made me stand on a stage, alone. Women offered to pay money for me. They took away my name. They took away my home. They took…everything.” – Violet 

With her beautiful violet eyes, doll face, cello playing and “the best augur powers in the last 15 years”, Violet is just so special and privileged, yet she gets her basic human rights ripped away as she cannot escape from the Duchess, who puts a collar and chain on her anywhere they go in public. She has no say in what she wears, what she does and is pretty much forced to make a baby. It’s all pretty disturbing if you tell me, and the fact that Violet was whining half the time didn’t help either. In comparison with the rest of the Marsh (or poor people) she’s so much better off living in extravagance, yet treated as a slave. I disliked this whole ‘special snowflake’ thing about her beauty, talent, intelligence all raved about throughout and in comparison with the Duchesse’s niece who is ugly, desperate and god forbid, has a pimple. Oh the horrors, imagine being compared to her.

“…We all envy the surrogates. Do you not think that, if I could do this myself, I would? I have wealth, yes, and a title and power. But you have a power I do not. cannot create life.” – The Duchess of the Lake 

The Jewel’s surrounds are absolutely lush and extravagant, with servants, ladies in waiting (who can strangely be men), endless dresses and jewellery and ballrooms. A half attempt at world building is made here and there, with the Duchesses racing to get a child and marry them off to get the most power. We’re being spoonfed tidbits of information throughout, but we never really get any meaty answers which makes it frustrating. Why do the people of the Marsh have powers? Why are the ladies of the Jewel not able to produce healthy babies? How did this world become this way? You’d never know.

You see, the writing in The Jewel is actually pretty decent and kept me entertained for the most part. There were glimpses of where the plot could go, like Lucien saying he will help Violet escape, and it never arises until the very end. About halfway through, the plot reaches a standstill, fails to answer any questions, and then inserts a perfect guy who can relate to Violet’s situation as a subservient slave, and makes them fall in love. After a few passing glances and one talk they are ready to give their hearts to each other and my eyes rolled out of my head.

We are the same, he and I, both controlled by the royalty, neither of us free to make our own choices. But we can choose to be together. The royalty cannot own this moment.

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My feelings on the Jewel are pretty much this: “too little, too late”. At this point of the YA dystopian lifecycle, we’ve pretty much read it all, and they can all be compared to front runners such as The Hunger Games. Insert some flimsy world building and an insta-love romance and you’ll be turning readers off left right and center, which is sadly what The Jewel did. It wasn’t a bad read, it just didn’t fully explore the full potential of the story and didn’t stand out too much.

Rating: 2 out of 5

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Thank you to Walker Books Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

xoxo_jeann

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Jeann is an Aussie blogger, gamer, reader who loves to read, write, fangirl, geek out and eat food. You can find me glued to one of my many mobile devices 24/7, or fangirling over the latest YA book, TV show, movie or game. Chat with me on Twitter @happyindulgence

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38 responses to “Dystopian YA Reviews #1 – Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield & The Jewel by Amy Ewing

  1. Right don't read Jewel – check (glad that the cover turned me off anyhow…too much pretty dress going on there for me.

    As for Afterworlds – I sent my copy to Kat – she seemed really interested and honestly that thing was a brick for a YA book and I heard half of it was contemp and that usually just isnt my thing at all. But glad to see you loved it so.
    Tabitha (Not Yet Rea recently posted…Review: Black Arts by Faith HunterMy Profile

    • Yeah, like you I'm turned off the classic pretty dress paranormal story these days as well and looking for something different. It's a MASSIVE YA book and I'm really interested, but I'm looking forward to Kat's review.

  2. Oh my gosh, I had no idea Afterworlds was 600 pages :O That's pretty cool though if it's such a good book 😉 You're enthusiasm is contagious, I'm definitely going to look for this one next time I'm out. That's cool that he developed Darcy so well. I've heard mostly bad things about The Jewel but for some reason it's one of those books I know I'm going to have to read even though everyone tells me not to xD

    • I know, it's quite a thick and chunky book, I can't wait to read it myself! Yeah, I felt the same about The Jewel, even though I heard so many warnings I still wanted to see what I thought XD

    • I know, I can't wait to read it myself. You really do need to be in the mood for certain genres I think! Yeah, I read a lot of bad reviews of The Jewel to be fully prepared lol. Thanks Dani!

  3. Great reviews! I am really curious about Afterworlds, I picked up an ARC at YALC in July but never got to it. Now I think it's something I definitely need to make time for. I read The Jewel and gave it the same rating as you. I really enjoyed it in the beginning but it all goes down hill at about the halfway mark. The romance was just THE WORST!
    Reviews from a Bookw recently posted…Mini Reviews: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang and Four by Veronica RothMy Profile

  4. I haven't read the Uglies series yet, I've had it on my shelf for a looong time, do you recommend it Tanja?

    Yeah, The Jewel wasn't entirely a waste because the world building was fascinating, just the romance was too much. Thank you hun!

  5. I totally agree, I'm seeing more and more diverse books out there which is good. I love the Aussie version of THe Jewel, it's beautiful, but I think I like the US version better. Thanks for visiting, Carmel!

  6. Scott is an amazing writer! I knew that because of his Uglies series, but this one seems even better. I love it when you a book inside of a book and it's always interesting to read about it. Also when a book has 600 pages and you want more it tells me a lot. Jeann I'm sorry that this one was a disappointment and yeah that romance was terrible, but somehow I really loved that idea and that world, so yeah I put it aside. Great reviews, ladies 🙂
    Tanja recently posted…Unbreakable by Kami GarciaMy Profile

  7. YAY for Scott Westerfield & for diversity in the Young Adult genre! I'm kind of disappointed now that you didn't share any quotes from this book—oh well, I guess that just means that I'll actually have to READ it. Hehe It's too bad that Ewing wasn't able to deliver an equally amazing story with The Jewel, but this is the first time I'm seeing the Australian version of the cover, so thanks for sharing it!
    Carmel @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Paranormal New Releases: September 30thMy Profile

  8. Everyone is loving Afterworlds, man! I've never read a Scott book before (I know, I know! But YOU haven't read Raven Boys. So we're even :P).

    YAY for the diverseness!!! I love mixing it up. No more bog-standard books, please!

    Also: I LOVE THE NAME DARCY. I named my car that hehe

  9. Great reviews, ladies. I'm daunted by the heft of my Afterworlds copy. But I'm going to try not to let that deter me.

    I'm sorry Jewel was such a disappointment and a half. I wasn't getting all the bru-ha-ha about this book so I'm not in a rush to read it.
    Joy (Joyousreads) recently posted…The TBR TagMy Profile

  10. Ow I want to read Afterworlds so much so I'm really glad you liked it!

    The Jewel on the other hand I heard bad things about recently. It's safe to say I'm not dying to read it.

    Great Reviews!

  11. I am so glad you loved Afterworlds, Michelle. I am dying to read it!

    Sorry to hear you didn't like the Jewel that much Jeann. There were a lot of unanswered questions that I am hoping will be answered in the next book. Hope you enjoy the next book you read more.
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  12. I really want to read Afterworlds because…it's like writer-inception, isn't it?!! SO COOL! I love it when writers write about writing. Hehe. I didn't love the Uglies though, which made me hesitant about htis (plust it's like a million pages long isn't it?) but I'm sold *nods* I will be dashing after Afterworlds at the first opporunity.

    I agree The Jewel was a trainwreck. It had PERFECT potential. I think it just crashed and burned with sooo many elements it copied from The Hunger Games and the horrific romance. I feel like it was just about two teens who had no life choices, so decided to "love" each other because they could actually make that decision. *sigh* Zero chemistry and so sosooo rushed.
    Cait @ Notebook Sist recently posted…The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco || Woah, that was sufficiently scaryMy Profile

    • Yeah, I was super disappointed with The Jewel afterwards. I actually quite enjoyed it at the start, but yeah I wish it didn't get into the insta-love route. It happened late in the book and I got disappointed, I totally agree with it dragging and then rushing at the end.

  13. Michelle: Woo! It's so great to hear that about Afterworlds — I cannot wait to read that novel. I keep hearing such great things about it and it sounds like a book that's right up my alley, so I'm sure I will enjoy it at the very least.

    Jeann: Damn, it's a shame to hear that about The Jewel! However I'm still quite looking forward to it, and considering I was a fan of The selection (which I've seen The Jewel compared to) fingers crossed that I'll like it.

    Fantastic reviews. 🙂
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  14. A "contemporary-dystopia"? What a mix. Now I definitely want to pick this one up and see how it is! I'm normally only a fan of the dual POV when it works and it seems like this is a positive case. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Michelle and I definitely envision myself picking this up in the future! Fabulous review!<3

    The Jewel was a disappointment, wasn't it? It just pains me because it had so much potential but it was all wasted =__= That love-fest at the end didn't help it's case either. AND THE PLOT HOLES. But even I have to admit, that cliffhanger was a good one. I've definitely been lured in for book two because now how can I go on not knowing?! (my curiosity will end me one day xD) Fantastic review as always, Jeann! <333
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    • Oh my gosh, the love fest was what ruined it for me, I wish they actually explored things properly without going that route. SO MANY PLOT HOLES, I mean why didn't they focus on telling us things to make the world more legible instead? I don't know, I'm able to stay away from books now when I'm not satisfied with Book 1.