In this gripping exploration of a futuristic afterlife, a teen discovers that death is just the beginning.
Since her untimely death, 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—appears 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.
Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake…but the salvation of all mankind.
Previously published as Level 2.
About the Author
Lenore Appelhans has been blogging about books since 2008. After reviewing hundreds of them, she decided to write one. She is the author of The Memory of After, The Best Things in Death (an e-short story), and Chasing Before. Lenore also wrote Chick-o-Saurus Rex, a picture book illustrated by her husband, Daniel Jennewein. She lives in Frankfurt, Germany, but loves to travel, so you can often find her on planes—at least until she learns how to teleport. Visit her online at PresentingLenore.Blogspot.com and on Twitter @LenorEva.
Read an Excerpt
I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD. I used to say it a lot. When my dad suggested I turn off the flashlight I thought I so expertly hid under my covers. That time youth pastor Joe told us to pipe down at the church lock-in. The balmy summer night I convinced Autumn to sneak out after midnight so we could dance in Nidda Park, arms outstretched to the stars. But then I died.
And now I can’t sleep. Except, that is, when I access my memories of sleeping. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve combed through the seventeen years and 364 days of my life, searching for those rare uninterrupted, nightmare-free stretches of slumber. Because sleep is my only real break from this endless reel of memories, both mine and those I’ve rented.
Naturally, I’ve compiled a top ten. Most of the list includes Neil, though I often revisit a memory of being cradled on my dad’s chest as a baby. It makes me feel like nothing bad could ever happen to me.
His lullaby envelops me in such warmth, I can almost forget I’m trapped here in this pristine hive with a bunch of other drones. All my age, all from the United States, all females who died in accidents in the early twenty-first century. And all so addicted to their personal memory chambers, they barely ever venture out.
Not that I’m not. Addicted, I mean. It’s just that everything’s hazy when I’m out of my memory chamber. I don’t even remember how I got here. And though I do retain names and faces and relevant details of my fellow inmates, I never seem to be able to hold on to much else. At most, there are snatches of my conversations with Beckah and Virginia, but these fade in and out of my consciousness like barely remembered dreams. The three of us are the only ones who spend time in the communal area at the center of the hive. And sometimes, before we are compelled to heed the siren call of our chambers, we sit awkwardly on the polished, blinding white floor that matches the color and texture of every surface in our godforsaken prison. We muse about what this place might be, if this is all we have to look forward to for the rest of eternity, and about how strange it is not to have to eat or drink, or sweat or pee.
But we rarely talk about our deaths. We don’t remember much about them after all this time anyway. We try to keep it light, inconsequential. I suggest “movie nights,” where the three of us pull up memories of the same film in our chambers and then get together to discuss the details until our thoughts are too cloudy to continue. Virginia never gives up in her attempts to teach us back handsprings and complicated lifts, but I don’t mind because my body, entirely numb in this afterlife, doesn’t feel the pain of always crashing solidly to the floor. Beckah prefers to chat about books and where on the network to find the best quality memory editions of her favorites.
That’s what I plan to do now, to search again for a precise memory version of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Back in high school it was one I skimmed, which means accessing my own memory wouldn’t do much good. I’ve discovered it’s one a lot of people skim, despite its relative brevity, because I’ve yet to find a deep, meaningful reading of it, and I’ve accessed at least two hundred copies by now.
But before I embark on my search, I decide to say hi to Neil.
I lie down in my airy chamber and fit my hands into the grooves at my sides, feeling a slight zing and a rush of endorphins as my skin connects. Above me the hologram interface lights up, and I use my index finger to scroll through my memory folders until I find one of my favorite memories of Neil. I push play, and I’m there.
Ward, Felicia. Memory #32105
Tags: Ohio, Neil, Hiking, Youth group, Favorite
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It’s one of those gorgeous spring evenings I can never get enough of, when the trees burst with fresh, impossibly green leaves and the air is fragrant with promise. I am nearing the end of a daylong hike with the girls from the church youth group, and I nod from time to time as if I’m listening to the chatter around me. The talking barely registers because my head swirls with impressions of last night. Of how close I sat to Neil in the back of the van on the way up here. How casually, and without looking at me, he shifted the coat on his lap until it spilled over onto mine. And then how, without missing a beat, he trailed his fingers down my forearm and let them rest on my wrist, as if to take my pulse. How awareness of my surroundings faded as I zoned in on the slightest movement of his hand inching forward, slowly, tantalizingly. How my skin tingled and my own hand ached to touch him back.
And I am going to see him again soon. Very soon.
“Felicia?” Savannah snaps her perfectly manicured fingers in my face. “Don’t you think I’d make an ideal Esther? Pastor Joe says I’m too blond.” She huffs, shaking her head so her long golden waves shimmer in the fading sunlight. “He says Esther should be played by someone with dark hair. Like you. But no one really knows what Esther looked like. It’s all conjecture.”
“Black wig,” I manage to get out, my face flushing as I remember the intensity of Neil’s gaze on me last night as we got out of the van, the last time I saw him before the girls and guys split off to our separate cabins.
“Are you getting sick?” Savannah recoils, and immediately reaches into her pink purse for her bottle of hand sanitizer. My nostrils fill with molecules of artificial peach. She doesn’t wait for my answer but moves away from me, catching up with some of the others, leaving me trailing behind.
I pick up my pace when I see the lights of our cabins through the trees. My heart starts pounding, and I stuff my hands into the pockets of my hoodie. I look up, and I see him. He’s at the edge of the fire pit, joking around with Pastor Joe and Andy as they light kindling, trying to get a fire going.
Neil looks up and sees me too. His blue eyes twinkle. His smile is so luminous and pure, it’s like he’s been saving it up his whole life just for me. Andy pokes him in the side with a twig and whispers something into Neil’s ear that makes him blush. Neil punches him lightly on the arm, and Andy shakes his head, snapping the twig in half.
“Hi,” I say when Neil approaches. My giddiness at being this close to him again bubbles up in my throat, and I giggle. I want to hug him. Really hug him. But not here. Not in front of Pastor Joe and Andy.
“Hey!” He reaches out and tugs playfully on the strings of my hoodie. “Want to go for a walk?”
I giggle again. “It’s not like we haven’t been walking all day.” The guys group went hiking too but took a different trail. A more challenging trail.
“Oh.” Neil blushes, his smile faltering, and he runs one of his hands through his brown curls. “You must be exhausted.”
I am. I’m also parched, and sweaty. My shoes are covered in mud. “I’m okay.” I sigh. I’d love to change outfits. “But maybe I’ll go in and grab another bottle of water at least.”
“No need.” Neil’s smile is back to full force. He leads me over to where he has stashed his backpack next to a tree, and he bends down to pull out a bottle of water. As I take it from him, my fingers brush against his, and the sensory memory of last night pulses through my body.
I lift the bottle up to my lips and watch how his gaze follows and lingers. He swallows, and I swallow. Our eyes meet.
I look away sharply, over at the fire pit, where the kindling is burning now and Pastor Joe gestures for Andy to give him one of the bigger logs. This is a mistake. I shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t encourage Neil’s interest in me, no matter how much I want to. He’s too good. And he deserves better.
“Maybe we should go help with the fire,” I mumble. My eyes are stinging, and I squeeze them shut to keep angry tears from escaping. It’s all so unfair. He probably thinks I’m like him, without a care in the world. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I feel Neil’s hand on my cheek as he turns my head back to face him. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
I look up at him and am overwhelmed by the concern shining in his eyes. All the feelings I’ve been pushing down for the past months well up inside me. A couple of hot tears trickle down my face, and my nose starts to itch.
Neil takes my hand, deliberately this time, not caring who sees, and leads me into the darkening forest. We pick through the underbrush slowly, side by side, and with each step I feel better. Stronger. Safer. Finally I stop. Neil stops too and faces me. Even though he’s only inches away, I can barely make out his outline. But I feel his warmth, hear his raspy breathing.
“Um, Neil, do you have a flashlight?” I whisper.
His breath tickles my ear. “A Boy Scout is always prepared.” He takes my other hand and guides it down to the lower pocket of his cargo pants. “In there.” His tone is innocent despite the bold gesture.
I’m a little taken aback, but I fumble around in his pocket and pull out a mini Maglite. I turn it on, and without letting go of Neil’s hand, I twirl in a circle so beams of light bounce off the surrounding trees.
“We should go,” I say. Then I turn the flashlight off and slip it back into Neil’s pocket.
I step closer to him, and recklessness takes over. I reach up and touch his lower lip lightly with my finger, and I close my eyes—
A siren blares. Glass shards cut my face. Intense pain hammers me everywhere at once. One, two, three beats, and then I jerk my hands out of the grooves. I’m back in my memory chamber, almost surprised to see I’m unharmed.
Something’s wrong. That’s not at all how the night ended.
Voices buzz all around me, an unusual sound. I sit up to look over the ledge to investigate. The other drones are all doing the same.
“Did you feel that?” Virginia calls out. A chorus of yeses responds, and everyone makes their way down from their memory chambers, to meet in the middle.
I head over to where Virginia stands, and Beckah joins us.
“What just happened?” Beckah asks, shaking. She has a haunted look on her face, a look I see echoed on all the other faces.
A girl named Amber is pointing at something behind me. “Omigod!” she shrieks, excited. “There’s a boy coming in through a door!”
Impossible. We haven’t seen any boys here. Ever. I spin around, and my mouth drops open. Because I know this boy. And he’s calling my name.
What People are Saying About This
“Absolutely gripping. My heart pounded on nearly every page. You won't be able to put it down.”
“A gripping debut! This utterly unique take on the afterlife poses fascinating questions . . . I can't wait to read the rest of the series to find out the answers!”
“Appelhans brings the afterlife to a whole new level. . . . A high-voltage thrill ride through love, death, and memory that will leave you breathless.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Futuristic afterlife? Sounds interesting right? While the premise sounds promising the actual execution was, well, poor. I'll just get right into it. Felicia is stuck in Level 2 but doesn't know it until the devilish Julian rescues her. What is Level 2? It's the place where the dead come to terms with their lives and make peace with whatever they need to. At least, that's what it's supposed to be.... Felicia confused me. For about three fourths of the book her narrative had me convinced that she's done some very awful things in her life. Her family is ashamed of her and she doesn't think much of herself. On top of that we find out that, while she was alive, she had nightmares of something that happened to her as a child. Interesting right? Not to spoil it or anything but that nightmare? Um...why was it a nightmare exactly? Nothing happened. It was a little anti-climatic Her family, well, I should say her mother is just plain awful. And that deep dark secret? Talk about disappointing. Yes, what happened to her friend was horrible but it wasn't Felicia's fault, she just happened to find the body. In my opinion, that should have been the nightmare. And Felicia going behind her friends' back to date the same guy? Not cool. But really? She thinks so little of herself because of that last thing? It just doesn't make logical sense. I understand the regret. But the "oh I'm not worth the time" attitude just doesn't make sense in the end. I felt like I was waiting to understand how Level 2 works and what exactly was happening until the last possible moment. By the time everything was out in the open, it was time for the resolution. It all felt rushed like the author was as ready as I was to leave the story behind. Much of the book is also just memories of her life on earth. I enjoyed reading them but.... Sometimes Felicia said she "needed" to see one. So I'd be paying attention (thinking it was important) and at the end I was almost always left wondering why she needed to see it. So, to summarize. The ending was rushed. The main character thought of herself as dirt for a reason no one (not even some of the characters) could understand. And every secret was a let down. Plus, Felicia was just weird.... I mean, the love story wasn't even that great. Actually, there wasn't much at all. There you have it. I was really disappointed with The Memory of After.
After reading the synopsis on Pulseit I knew I wanted to read it. I like to try out books with themes I haven’t read before to see where the author goes and figure out what they may have been thinking when they came up with the idea. Lenore Appelhans tells Felicia Ward’s story by starting with a glimpse of Felicia trapped in the all-white expanse with other drones, all forced to replay memories of their lives on earth. Then to help the reader understand Felicia’s way of thinking and who she is we get to travel back and witness all of her memories she chooses to relive throughout the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the parts that were her actual memories. When I was, I found myself really liking her and eager for the next moment, but then they would end and I’d find myself back in her reality on Level 2. This really didn’t pull me into the story and left me confused in some places wondering what was going on and how the Morati and Rebels even played such a big role. Once I got a little over half way through The Memory of After, I found myself turning the pages a lot faster and re-reading some parts because I wanted to feel that moment again. More details about Level 2 were shared and the dots started to connect so I could understand what was so important that Felicia just had to get involved. The story line picked up the pace and finally had me in its grip. So many things happened to challenge Felicia and Julian (the guy she knew in life) that it totally changed the entire scope of the story, making it worth reading. I will be reading the second book in Appelhans Memory Series because I was left intrigued and curious about what Felicia Ward’s going to have to face after everything that happened in The Memory After. So if you try out this book when it’s re-released the pace and plot definitely pick up a while into the book. On a side note here, just because I found the beginning of the book to be slow moving and its only redeeming qualities were the glimpse into Felicia’s memories doesn’t mean that you’ll agree. You may love this book from the start, my sister has different opinions on what makes a great read and we don’t always agree.
This book is about Felicia, when she died (which we learn how and why)she is stuck on Level 2. It's a like a waiting room for Heaven. We see her past through her reliving her memories in the chambers. There was a lot with her and Neil, which those were sweet moment. Also some with Julian, which were some steamy moments and betrayal. Julian finds her and tries to convince her to join the rebellion to take down the people controlling the hives. I thought it was just great. There was something always going on to keep my attention. Either her memories or what they were doing on Level 2. I look forward to read the next book.