Book two of the Memory Chronicles
By Lenore Appelhans
Available now from Simon & Schuster BFYR
Read my review of The Memory of After
Note: I know Lenore Appelhans.
It's been awhile since I read THE MEMORY OF AFTER (published in hardcover as LEVEL 2), so it took several chapters before I readjusted to the mythology of the series and remembered what had happened before. Felicia and her boyfriend Neil have both moved on to Level 3, the second level of the afterlife. Unfortunately, the Morati (a group of rogue angels) have moved into Level 3 too.
There were several things I liked about CHASING BEFORE and several things that frustrated me. I liked that we got to meet Felicia's best friend Autumn, who had been murdered before the events of THE MEMORY OF AFTER. Autumn is still working through her afterlife, and though she says she's forgiven Felicia for stealing her boyfriend, there is still an obvious friction between the girls. They also run into Neil's older brother Nate, which felt like a bit much. Maybe if he'd died many years after, but it sure feels like a lot of their peer group conveniently died off. Nate, however, does provide one big revelation: Felicia and Neil didn't die in the car crash like they thought. They're both missing months of memories.
CHASING BEFORE is full of neat twists like that, and they keep coming though the climax of the book. The end of CHASING BEFORE can serve as a conclusion, but I'm excited to see Level 4 and find out what's next. Unfortunately, the exciting twists and things blowing up keep getting bogged down by relationship drama. The issues between Felicia and Neil are very realistic. She wants to have sex; he still wants to keep to his ideal of no sex before marriage. She's prone to jealousy and he's stubborn. But their fights didn't endear me to Neil, who I've never found that swoonworthy.
Level 3 itself is also a mix of good and bad. I liked the character development Felicia goes through as she learns to let go of her life on Earth, even as she's desperate to recover her lost memories and the whole of herself. At the same time, Level 3 is apparently where you learn your afterlife career. Thankfully we don't have to spend too much time in class. There are less flashbacks in CHASING BEFORE than in THE MEMORY OF AFTER, if you're one of the readers that was bothered by those. The past continues to be helpful to discovering what's happening, but it is no longer a focus.
CHASING BEFORE is a breezy read with an intriguing take on the afterlife and a heroine who is both brave and determined. There is a love triangle, for those who hate that, but it is very much in the background. It's probably best if you read THE MEMORY OF AFTER first, but I think CHASING BEFORE can stand on its own.