Title: Chasing Before
Author: Lenore Appelhans
Series: The Memory Chronicles, #2
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Dystopian, Paranormal – Angels
Publication Information: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014
Rating: 3 Stars
Recommended For: People who like seamless genre bending and ambiguous protagonists.
Felicia and Neil have arrived in Level 3 and are supposed to prepare for their divine vocations.
But during Felicia and Neil’s training period, a series of explosions rips through Level 3. Tension is high, and casualties are mounting. A rift forms between the pair, one that grows wider when Felicia receives memories from the Morati. The memories cast doubt on the people she loves the most, but Felicia can’t stop her curiosity. She has to know the truth about her life – even if it means putting at risk everything she’s worked for in her death.
(Summary from Goodreads)
One thing I really admire about this series is how well Appelhans blends together different genres to create something unique. In the first book, we had a dystopian society set in the afterlife and run by corrupt angels. This installment was lighter on the dystopian element (although I still labeled it as such because the Morati are back and would probably love to return to their dystopian roots). Instead, we get Level 3, which is its own world separate from earth, giving this book a fantasy lean. (For the purpose of this review, I am labeling the afterlife a fantasy world because it is one author’s conception of the afterlife. Just so we’re all on the same page with this.)
I also continued to enjoy Felicia as a character because of her imperfection. Throughout this series, she has two main enemies: the Morati and herself. I love that she struggles with things life selfishness and betrayal because I feel like it’s not something that’s widely accepted for female characters in literature. That being said, there were times that I wanted to sigh and roll my eyes at Felicia because she was so focused on Neil. Like, GIRL. THERE ARE PEOPLE DYING. You can worry about your boyfriend (who is HIDING THINGS FROM YOU) later.
My biggest issue with the book, actually, was how much of the conflict was focused on Neil. I wasn’t a big fan of Neil. He lacked the ambiguity of Julian. There was potential for Neil to get more interesting since we learn some Things about him pretty early on, but then we never really get to see him wrestle with himself – he just does a lot of sulking and hiding from Felicia. Also, the conflict with the Morati wreaking havoc in Level 3 and giving Felicia missing memories to some purpose or other was more interesting to me, so I would’ve loved to have dwelled on that one more because it gets super interesting toward the end and I wished that particular aspect of the conflict had had more time to develop.
TL;DR: Focused a little too much on Boy Drama for my personal taste, but I loved how ambiguous Felicia was as a protagonist.