Disclaimer: Lenore and I have known each other through blogging for years, plus we’ve met in person several times and we talk on other social media sites. However, this review is as honest as I can make it, and I have attempted not to let any bias slip into my thoughts because of my friendship with the author.
Also: Necessary spoilers from the first book in this series, but I will include no spoilers from this book.
Okay. Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll begin! Chasing Before is the sequel to Level 2 (later re-titled The Memory of After). I enjoyed Level 2 quite a lot, especially the memory-flashing and Our Town themes, and I was quite looking forward to the next installment of the series. Chasing Before picks up not long after Level 2 ends. Felicia and Neil have chosen to move from Level 2 to Level 3, only once they get there, they realize things are very, very wrong. Some of the Morati have slipped through, making Felicia – and those around her – a target for violence. To add to her troubles, Felicia makes a startling discovery about her memories that cause her to question everything.
My feelings on this book were more mixed than with the first. I still enjoyed the book – and like the first one, read it in a single afternoon, until I was up way too late that night! I liked revisiting old characters, and the way memory-sharing was integrated into the story, so that the book had a similar feel to Level 2 even though Felicia was now on Level 3. I really liked some of the new characters as well, especially Brady and Furukama. While I predicted a lot of the events of the book ahead of time, there were several twists that caught me off-guard, especially the revelation about Felicia’s memories. That was a really cool direction to take the book.
On the negative side, there were two things that bothered me. Some of the events seemed to happen really fast. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but particularly in the beginning, several characters die not long after we meet them. I liked those characters, and feel like if I’d had just a little more time to get to know them, I could have mourned them the way surviving characters did. Because I barely spent any time with them, however, I didn’t really feel anything at their deaths. The second was that I really, really didn’t like Neil in this book. He was an ass for about 75% of the book. Honestly, I kinda wonder if that’s how I was supposed to feel, and I do love the fact that he’s the sort of character not often seen in secular fiction (a purity-pact, extremely devoted Christian), even if he drove me (and Felicia) crazy because of his beliefs. I’m glad he starts to redeem himself by the end of the book.
On a personal note, the ending of Chasing Before really made me uncomfortable. I want to stress that this isn’t a negative. I cannot reveal specifics without spoiling the book, so I’ll give a somewhat-related example to explain my feelings. (Notably, this will contain a mild spoiler from Mrs. Craddock by William Somerset Maugham.) In Mrs. Craddock, the (married) narrator receives a letter from a man she almost had an affair with. She knows the letter will tempt her, and so she keeps it for a long time without ever opening or reading it. Eventually, when it no longer tempts her, she throws it away unread. This made me incredibly uncomfortable. I’m a “give me ALL the information” kind of girl. I wanted to know what that stupid letter said! Those who have read Chasing Before will understand what bothered me about the ending now. Again, it isn’t that the book had a bad ending – it was actually a very courageous ending, I think – it just gutted me a little on a personal level, and makes me 1) hope that volume 3 will give me a chance know more, and 2) want to beg Lenore for more information, haha! I won’t do that though. I’m a good reader.
Looking forward to the next book in the series!