Novella Review: The Best Things in Death by Lenore Appelhans

The Best Things in Death by Lenore Appelhans
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Sci-fi
Source: Bought
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Neil — A week before his car crash with Felicia, Neil spends a perfect day at the swimming hole. He and Felicia have never been happier. But can he work up the courage to tell her that he loves her?

Julian — Months before the events of THE MEMORY OF AFTER, Julian and Mira spy on Felicia and Autumn during a trip to Iceland.

Libby — Character first introduced in CHASING BEFORE. Libby and her boyfriend Jeremy head off on a road trip to Las Vegas and stumble upon truths potentially deadly to their relationship.

Brady — Character first introduced in CHASING BEFORE. An unexpected encounter with the charming Oliver brings cancer-patient Brady out of his shell.

While we wait for the sequel to The Memory of After, Chasing Before which releases this August, a novella has recently released that has just enough familiarity with the world Appelhans has created and is equally a very satisfying tease for what’s to come.

I love that this novella begins with Felicia, begins with familiar ground and she’s just thinking about life and cherishing what she may have taken for granted before. The best things in death are reliving those “five star” memories as she describes it and that leads us into the memories. I loved this introduction if you will before the memories begin because it refreshed my memory as it’s been awhile since I’ve read The Memory of After. In fact, when I first read it, it was originally titled Level 2. Anyway, I love that these four memories are cherry picked from the tag, “The best things in life are free.” Awesome tag! Just take a minute to think about what memories or memory you’d tag as “The best things in life are free.” A few memories come to mind for me and really knock things back into perspective for me. But you don’t want to hear about my memories! Let’s get to the characters…

The novella consists of four memories, two from Neil and Julian, characters we know, and two from Libby and Brady, characters we will meet in Chasing Before. It was such a blast getting inside Neil and Julian’s heads. I’d missed these characters and their memories did not disappoint!

We begin with Neil hanging out with friends at the swimming hole which is like their local water park that they have connections to get into for free. The best things in life? Sometimes, it’s connections. Neil and his friends are celebrating the end of the school year, talking about their summer plans (which involves a family wedding and Felicia’s 18th birthday), games, and just enjoying each other’s company. What makes this memory of Neil’s so special to me is that I saw not only this memory as a special one for Neil – it’s a defining moment because it’s the last moment in Felicia’s life that he unknowingly has to tell her he loves her – but it’s the simple fact that love is free and love is one of the best things in life and that makes this memory so special. All throughout the memory, Neil yearns to tell Felicia he loves her. But he chooses to wait for a special time. Like her birthday. But we all know death comes first.

Then there’s Julian. His memory is actually told last in the novella. I like that full circle effect. He’s following Felicia and Felicia doesn’t know it. He’s on a mission from higher up but has a mission of his own to control himself and not go directly towards Felicia, interacting with her. Watching him watch her, yearning… it was something! I love that in Neil’s memory, it’s the summer time and in Julian, we’re in Iceland. There’s so much to be said about the hot and cold aspects but I don’t want to look too deep into it so I won’t. I’ll just say that I really enjoyed this memory, really enjoyed them all.

Which brings us to the new characters, Libby and Brady and their memories. Whoa. What in the world are we in for in Chasing Before? So many intense emotions and memories, I can tell you that!

First, we follow Libby as she says goodbye to her best friend, Marie before heading on a road trip with Jeremy so the two can get married in Vegas. The road trip doesn’t go very well. I don’t know what’s more captivating, road trips gone wrong or road trips gone right but this memory kept me on edge the entire time. Jeremy is too smart for his own good, set in his ways…stubborn, dare I say selfish in a twisted way because at the same time he is selfless, a killjoy, more practical than he is lovable… essentially he has a hardened heart and makes strides to open up when pushed but he clearly has a long way to go. Not taking into account Libby’s feelings, not compromising, not being a team like a soon to be married couple should be (long before thinking of marriage), all of this leads to their downfall. This unhealthy relationship was doomed and it certainly goes down in the worst way on this road trip. And it makes for a very heart pounding conclusion. Danger! Danger! Libby speaks up but also gives Jeremy space to be… Jeremy. She gives him the benefit of the doubt and doesn’t stand her ground when it matters most…she does at the very last moment but will it count? And will Jeremy see the error in his ways when he’s able to ses the bigger picture?

Then there’s Brady. Recently discharged from the hospital. Chatting it up with Oliver whose sister calls the hospital a temporary home as Oliver recently did. Oliver opens up to Brady. Brady, afraid of certain outcomes, lies until he sees that he doesn’t have to anymore. The best things in life? Honesty. Being genuine. Being you. I could go on but this memory was so delicate, so beautiful, I don’t want to to share too much. Go in blind for this one.

The Best Things in Death is flows beautifully from memory to memory. I had a blast reading and am certainly satisfied while I wait for Chasing Before! Also, if you missed it, check out my review for The Memory of After, previously titled Level 2 here.

Favorite Lines:

They treat their memories like a sea of endless precious stones, picking and choosing them at random to take out, polish, and admire.

You do the same thing every day, you run on autopilot. Time seems to go faster. But you do things you’ve never done before, you pay attention. Time slows down.

She would prefer classical music or Broadway show tunes.

He boxes Gracie up and shoves the memory into the deep, dark recesses of his mind – not in the junk drawer, because she’s too dangerous for that – but in the wall safe, one that he hopes to lose the combination to.

Today might even be the perfect day to tell Felicia he loves her.

The Best Things in Death by Lenore Appelhans is available today.

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