by Lenore Appelhans
Summary from Goodreads:
‘I pause to look around the hive – all the podlike chambers are lit up as the drones shoot up on memories … I’ve wanted to get out of here before, but now the tight quarters start to choke me. There has to be more to death than this.’
Felicia Ward is dead. Trapped in a stark white afterlife limbo, she spends endless days replaying memories, of her family, friends, boyfriend … and of the guy who broke her heart. The guy who has just broken into Level 2 to find her.
When I saw the summary for Level 2 back in early December, my reaction went something like this: “Yes! I have to have this ASAP! This is such a me book! Why has no one put this book in my hands yet? So, when is the release date? Still over a month away? How ever can I make it that long?”. As you might imagine, Level 2 quickly became one of the top books I was looking forward to this year, so I got a hold of it as soon as I could, and I’m so glad I did.
I was really hoping this would be a five star book, but it didn’t quite make it to that point. There were a few things I had issues with, so I’ll get those out of the way before I squeal over all the parts I did love. First, Felicia, our main character, doesn’t think highly of herself, and this gets quite annoying after a while. Her thoughts about her past seem to be completely self-deprecating and on the lines of “I’m the worst person ever!”. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Felicia’s made plenty of mistakes, including some pretty major ones, but her constant hatred of herself seems a little overboard and is hard to read after a bit. This gets better towards the end.
My final complaint is that while the book does suck you in, it takes awhile for the main plot to actually start. Most of the beginning is spent in Felicia’s memories. These become necessary to the plot later on, but when it’s not clear how, it seems a bit unnecessary to spend so much time reliving some of Felicia’s experiences. Once the plot really takes off, even the quality of the memories seems to improve.
All right, now that my complaints are out of the way, I can focus on what I do love about this novel. To begin with, the concept. Why aren’t there more books that take place in the afterlife? There’s so many things you can explore there. I’m now convinced that Lenore Appelhans must have found my 10th grade creative writing project in which I wrote a short story about a girl who dies in a car wreck to find the afterlife is a large room with a TV and a DVD player, and you watch a DVD of your life over and over until you get to the point of your death, then the cycle starts all over again, but you don’t remember you’ve already watched your life. Level 2 definitely has a similar vein, at least for awhile, which just made me love it even more.
I’ve read some reviews that state Neil, Felicia’s love interest, seems a little too perfect, and while I think that’s a valid criticism, I actually did know guys like that in high school, so I can’t say it’s exactly unrealistic. I really like the exploration of Felicia’s and Neil’s relationship. Felicia grows a lot during it, but I feel like Lenore struck a good balance of having Neil be a catalyst for Felicia to come to terms with herself while not being the only reason. It can be a bit dangerous to play with the “boy saves the girl” device, but I thought it worked fairly well in the story.
I’m not sure why, considering this story is about the afterlife, but I didn’t expect religion to play such a large role in the story. It fits well by the end, but Felicia’s memories of things like youth groups and meeting Neil at church just seem so normal despite the premise and setting of the story. I really like the plot about the war and the last fifty pages of this book definitely kept me turning the pages as new twists kept being revealed!
Final Impression: Despite a few things I disliked throughout the book, for the most part Level 2 kept me entertained and wanting to know more. It was so refreshing and original with characters I really grew to care about. This book wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but I ended up really liking it anyway. I think it’s a worthy read and has me excited to read Level 3. 4/5 stars.
You can find Level 2 on Amazon.