Title: Memory Chronicles #2: Chasing Before
Author: Lenore Appelhans
No. of Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Origins: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: 26 August 2014
Bottom Line: Doesn’t stand under scrutiny but still a fun story
“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?”
Thoughts: Poor Felicia is not having a very peaceful afterlife. First, there is her battle with the Morati in Level 2. Then, immediately upon her arrival at Level 3, the Morati are back again, as is Julian. There is a lot of internal debate about right and wrong, good versus bad, selfishness versus selflessness. Felicia remains torn between Neil and Julian. In the end, there are still more questions than answers with the added addition of an unsatisfactory feeling that Felicia followed the wrong path. It is a good thing there is another story in this series, as it gives readers another opportunity to figure out this strange new world, its policies and politics, and Felicia’s final role in everything.
Chasing Before is not the type of novel one can pick up mid-series. Readers need to be able to remember everything from the first novel because the second one builds on what was already shared. Unfortunately, there were minimal explanations and world-building in the first book, and there are even fewer explanations in the sequel. If one keeps an understanding of Ms. Appelhans’ version of heaven basic, without scrutiny, Level 3 makes sense. Any attempt to delve deeper however quickly reveals plot holes and many an unexplained area.
Just like the first novel, Chasing Before has many flaws. Felicia remains as indecisive as she was before, but this time there is much agony about her relationship with Neil. When Julian reveals a big secret about her abilities, this only serves to cause Felicia more angst. There is little character development and approximately the same amount of background set-up. The pacing is uneven and does not adequately build suspense. Lastly, the theological discussions are not as frequent but are still a major part of moving up to Levels 3 and 4.
The action is silly. The afterworld makes no sense upon inspection. Felicia is whiny, Neil is weak, and Julian is frustrating. However, none of this prevents Chasing Before from being a rollicking good time. One gets caught up in the emotion and drama and finds oneself thoroughly enjoying the story, sometimes because of the silliness of it all. Readers will fly through the story, anxious to uncover who Felicia chooses and why. They will want to help Felicia discover the hidden Morati, their ultimate purpose and their plans for her. They will want to uncover Felicia’s lost memories and help her find her future role in Level 3 or beyond it. It is the type of novel in which readers will become emotionally involved, which is a great thing when the story cannot bear the weight of a close examination. It may not great literature, but Chasing Before is certainly entertaining.