Series: The Memory Chronicles #1
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on January 15th, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult
Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost-family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.
Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian-a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life-comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.
I’ve been meaning to read The Memory of After (previously known as Level 2) for AGES, but it’s one of those books I just never got around to. After meeting and hanging out with Lenore in New York during BEA, I finally decided to really put it on the priority list, and I’m so glad I did! This book is unique and creative, and I’m just kind of… stunned.
I’m not a religious person at all, but the idea of the afterlife has always intrigued me. Before you make any assumptions: this book doesn’t carry a heavy religious theme. The fact of the matter is Felicia is dead and she’s stuck in this world where she just relives memories of her time on earth. I loved the creative take on the afterlife. It actually incorporated some Greek mythology (which I love) and had elements reminiscent of The Matrix (which I also love). Level 2 is more or less a fantasy/sci-fi-esque holding pen for people who have died but not yet moved on to heaven. I loved the technology of the “sleeping” chambers where they select memories to view, and how they could manipulate the “code” around them. It maybe wasn’t all thoroughly explained, and might require some suspension of disbelief, but I found that rather easy to do because – what the hell do we know about the afterlife? It’s a world of infinite potential, which I believe Lenore masterfully made into her own.
The Memory of After is very much a character-driven novel, and how much you like the book will definitely come down to how you feel about the main character. Felicia is maybe not the most memorable, or likable, but there’s such depth to her character that I was completely sucked into her story. She made some pretty stupid mistakes, but for much of the novel, that’s shrouded in mystery as she’s trying desperately not to think about the sins she’s committed. She punishes herself, and I was just SO intrigued. I had to know everything – what happened? Why? How did she die? And there were some SHOCKING twists, let me tell you. Even though I usually dislike books where there are these spaced out flashbacks that slowly reveal a character’s back story, I felt like it really worked in The Memory of After to keep me engaged in reading all the way through.
There’s also a love triangle, but I didn’t exactly mind that either. It wasn’t the melodramatic type where the main character is stuck choosing between two hotties and is all woe-is-me. The relationships were in sequence, not in parallel. I actually really freaking loved Julian from the first moment. He had a nice banter with Felicia, and the scenes between them were just LOADED with chemistry. Of course, their relationship gets really complicated – and with infidelity and many secrets in the mix, for all intents and purposes, I should hate them together, but I really just… didn’t. Neil I didn’t like quite as much, but at that point in Felicia’s life, he was exactly what she needed: patient, kind, and forgiving. Their relationship was so sweet that I completely understood Felicia clinging on to him, even in death. I have mixed feelings about the ending, and I’m incredibly glad I already have the sequel on hand, because I need to know more about Julian.
What I’m conflicted about is that it seems like the book almost tried to do too much. Just thinking about it, there’s the romance with Julian, the romance with Neil, the mystery of Felicia’s death, the mystery of her life falling apart before that, and the mystery of what Level 2 is, including the world building and dystopia-like plot. While I feel like on the whole it worked and it really made for a unique genre mash-up, I feel like the book wasn’t long enough to fully develop all of these aspects. The execution was a bit messy (particularly the end), and the emotional resonance could have been a bit stronger. However, I still definitely enjoyed the story.