Author: Lenore Appelhans
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Overall: 3 Stars
Perfect for fans of The Matrix and Inception, Chasing Before follows Felicia as she grapples with a futuristic afterlife in this riveting sequel to The Memory of After.
It’s been four months since Felicia saved Level 2 from the Morati, the corrupted angels who trapped her and her boyfriend, Neil, in the afterlife. Now, she and Neil are finally ready to move on to the mysterious Level 3, an afterlife training facility where humans pick a career to pursue until they supposedly retire to the next level.
Shortly after arriving, Felicia learns some shocking truths about her life that make her question everything. Neil wants to focus on the future, but Felicia insists on looking for answers about her past. Just when Felicia thinks things can’t get any more complicated, deadly explosions begin to rock Level 3, and Julian—her charming former love who might still be aligned with the Morati—reappears.
Felicia has a choice: Will she do everything in her power to expose the Morati and end the destruction of Level 3, even if it means never knowing who she really is? Or will she chase after the desires of her heart and risk losing her past humanity, her present afterlife, and a future with Neil?
After absolutely enjoying Level 2, now renamed as The Memory of After, I couldn't wait to finally read the sequel, but it pains me to write these next words: Lenore Appelhans's Chasing Before disappointed me. It was like being told to expect fireworks and then being handed a sparkler instead. Still nice and fun, but not nearly as exciting.
Felicia frustrated me in Chasing Before. I could understand why she was so driven to recover her lost memories, but what I hated was just how dependent she was on Neil to feel secure about herself. The Morati were threatening the peace and security of Level 3, but Felicia was more upset that she wasn't spending enough time with Neil. Girl, you need to sort out your priorities! Felicia drove me crazy at times in Level 2/The Memory of After as well, but I thought she would have learned from her mistakes by now.
And the romance! Ugh. I was never a Felicia and Neil shipper in the first book and I'm still not. I just feel they have no chemistry together, which was unfortunate because most of the novel is centered around their relationship, which definitely becomes strained in Chasing Before. After learning that the Morati tampered with her memories of the night she died, Felicia is unsure of her past and wants answers, but Neil doesn't feel the same way. He just wants to move on and choose a fulfilling career for their time in Level 3.
After replaying her memories of Neil when Felicia was still alive so often in Level 2, she has placed him on a pedestal. I felt she was more in love with this perfect version of him that she had in her mind than who he really was as a person. Neil doesn't support her decisions in Chasing Before, and he completely shuts her out when she tries to ask him about his past, but I think the real deal-breaker for me was learning he's an utter hypocrite who preaches ideals that he's already broken.
Neil was so set in his ways and unwilling to compromise that it always made Felicia feel like a bad person for not feeling the same way. And because Felicia was always seeking Neil's approval, it often seemed like she couldn't truly be herself because she didn't really see herself as good enough for him in the first place. I don't mind a little tension to add drama in a novel, but if a girl can't be comfortable around a guy she supposedly loves, then something is obviously not right. And it seemed like Neil didn't even try to understand her!
That being said, I still really do like the concept for The Memory Chronicles series as a whole. Level 2 was such a futuristic take on the afterlife with the hives and video networks that I couldn't wait to see how Lenore Appelhans had envisioned Level 3. It was very surprising that while Level 2 was so technologically advanced, Level 3 felt rather like a university campus where humans trained for special careers and lived in dorm-like rooms. I just really wish that Felicia's narration had been less centered around Neil because it limited how much readers could learn and explore Level 3.
With the Morati hiding in plain sight and posing as humans, I was definitely suspicious of every new character whom Felicia met. When I wasn't having problems with Felicia, Neil, and their relationship, it was the suspense of learning who was the villain that really drove me to turn the pages of the book with an addictive need. (And, okay, I was so totally on the lookout for any scenes with Julian, too.) I wanted to fall in love with Chasing Before, I really did, but when your expectations don't match the outcome, it hits you harder and this is just one of those times.
Thanks so much to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing this review copy!