“Rebel Mechanics” by Shanna Swendson

“Rebel Mechanics” takes place in an alternate history where British magic prevents the American Revolution from ever occurring. Verity Newton arrives in New York to find a job as governess and winds up working for one of the most powerful magical families in the city. Concerned about toeing the line in such a household, she discovers that not everyone in the family is as they seem. Although this magical family has held power for years, many members sympathize with the rebels, a group in the city reliant on engineering and machines instead of magic.

Verity finds herself swept away by the rebel group she encounters in the city. She agrees with their cause to bring equality to the non-magical people and decrease reliance on magic. It also helps matters that Verity starts falling for a rebel inventor. But will her magical employers mind the company she’s keeping? Although some of them are opened minded, Verity isn’t sure if they’ll be opened to all her secrets.

This book had a rollicking steampunk feel. The characters wore strange clothing and made quirky inventions and had unusual gatherings. As a reader you can’t help but like Verity who struggles as a bookish outsider to New York. I love authors who make their characters avid readers – a sure way help the readers of their own books identity with their characters! Although I caught many of the plot twists before they happened, a quite a few of them I didn’t see coming.

Swendson does a good job creating morally grey situations where the truth is stretched with good intentions and characters who seemed likeable display their dark sides. In all, “Rebel Mechanics” is a fun read.

“Afterworlds” by Scott Westerfeld

“Afterworlds” is really two YA novels in one. The first is the tale of Darcy, an 18-year-old whose Nanowrimo YA novel has been accepted for publication. The second is Darcy’s YA novel about Lizzie, a girl who pretends to be dead so well during a terrorist attack that she manages to access the afterworld.

The two novels are told in alternating chapters. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better, which is saying something since usually I like fantasy hands down. As an aspiring YA author, learning about Darcy’s move to New York and introduction to the YA world seemed pretty magical as well.

The highlight in Darcy’s section really was her relationship with her family and her new romance with a fellow debut author. The whole thing had a just-moved-out-from-home vibe that I could relate to well. Also, the characters’ analysis of Darcy’s finished novel was funny since you are reading it simultaneously. Especially the discussions about sacrificing culture for YA hotness! Fortunately, no spoilers were introduced. It was neat to see what changes Darcy made to the novel as it progressed.

The highlight in Lizzie’s section definitely was the theme of death. This book was often super dark – I mean it starts with a graphic terrorist attack which allows Lizzie to see ghosts. And the ghost Lizzie winds up spending the most time with is an eleven-year-old girl who suffered a horrific death. How Lizzie comes into her supernatural powers and uses her origin story to stay strong is inspiring. Although the hottie was cute, he didn’t have much of a personality.

Anyway, reading Afterworlds is kind of meta. Makes you wonder at the additional layer of Scott Westerfeld writing Darcy writing Lizzie.