Book One of The Memory Chronicles
By Lenore Appelhans
Available now from Simon & Schuster
Disclaimer: I know Lenore.
Felicia Ward has been dead awhile. She's not sure how long, but it seems like forever. Forever, simply rewatching her best memories and trading for the best memories of others. Uninterrupted in-depth reads of books are particularly valuable. Then Julian, a figure from her past who belongs to memories she prefers to leave unexamined, shows up. He brings news of a rebellion against the angels who are keeping people in Level 2 instead of allowing them to confront their lives and move on.
What follows combines action, romance, and conspiracy thrillers. See, Felicia doesn't trust Julian because of their past. But she's willing to follow him because he knows where Neil, her boyfriend, is. Meanwhile evil angels are chasing them down and the rebellion is proving to be fairly morally suspect itself. I like how Lenore Appelhans handled the love triangle. Felicia much prefers Neil to Julian, but it's actually Julian who gets the screen time. The intensity of their relationship is shown before much is revealed about Neil and Felicia.
I also liked the way Appelhans handled religion. I hate when a book involves angels but tries to pretend that angels have never been involved in any theology ever. The Morati of LEVEL 2 are certainly different, but Felicia looks for clues about what's going on in her own memories of church and mythology. And yes, Felicia met Neil through a church youth group. LEVEL 2 is never preachy, and Felicia certainly isn't a religious character, but church groups are a big thing for many teens but the only other YA books I can think of that involve them are SMALL TOWN SINNERS and THE DARK DIVINE.
I felt the foreshadowing at the beginning of LEVEL 2 was a bit much. Felicia references her shameful past many times and I kept hoping she would either reveal it or shut up about it. And, well, her past mistakes seem pretty innocent at first. Luckily, when Felicia finally faces her demons, they do turn out to be appropriately traumatic.
I'm pretty excited for the next book in The Memory Chronicles. The ending of LEVEL 2 is just lovely, and I'm glad the characters have some happiness, but I must know what comes next. Appelhans' version of the afterlife is well realized, from the original purpose of Level 2 to how the Morati perverted it, and I am eager to see what she'll create for Level 3.
ETA: The title LEVEL 2 will be changed to THE MEMORY OF AFTER for the paperback release on September 3, 2013. LEVEL 3 will be released as CHASING BEFORE. Lenore explains the reasoning behind this change here.