Review: Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

Title: Level 2
Author: Lenore Appelhans
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Page #: 280 (in my ARC, 288 according to Goodreads)
ISBN: 1442441852
Acquired: ARC from Simon & Schuster

Amazon, Goodreads, Author's Website

From Goodreads:
Three levels. Two loves. One choice. Debut novelist, Lenore Appelhans has written a thrilling otherworldly young adult novel about a place that exists between our world (Level 1) and what comes after life (Level 2).
'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.
Felicia learns that a rebellion is brewing, and it seems she is the key. Suspended between heaven and earth, she must make a choice. Between two worlds, two lives and two loves.
Most young adult novels dance around the idea of an afterlife, their characters somewhat apathetic in regards to what happens when we die, though not explicitly atheist, even when faced with imminent death themselves. Here is where Lenore Appelhans goes where few young adult authors have gone before. Her mythology of the afterlife, based mainly in Christian doctrine with a beehive motif, Level 2, is curious world where the dead may not rest in peace after all.

To me, the main character Felicia was a little difficult to relate to, but had her good points. We are introduced to the highs and lows of her life and get a first-hand glimpse into her past frequently throughout Level 2. I thought the usage of a machine to relive Felicia's memories incorporated into Level 2 was a brilliant way to give us a glimpse into her past without the standard, cliched flashback. Felicia's devotion to her new friends, Beckah and Virginia, is admirable and consistent, which was nice to see in a character that had previously had difficulties in the friendship department. I also liked her growth throughout the story, and I could see her becoming a better person as the story went on.

The other characters, not so much. Except for Felicia's boyfriend Neil, who we do not meet outside of flashbacks, I could not get myself to like the other characters or to feel anything for them at all. I'm still not entirely certain if I'm supposed to hate Julian or see him as sexy and irresistible (assuming that he is the second of the "two loves" mentioned in the Goodreads description), which he is not. Rude, manipulative, and cruel, every time he slithered onto the page I felt myself shiver in disgust. I'm actually really surprised that Eli, another guy introduced later in the story, is painted by Felicia to be this horrible guy. Writing him as this pseudo-villain seemed a little forced, especially since he was basically just Julian without the flirtatiousness.

Aside from the ending, which I felt stumbled quite a bit until things settle down in the very last pages, Appelhans' writing is very compelling. Felicia's past, including her death and another life-changing event during her time with the living, is mentioned again and again, but isn't revealed until the climax. I saw this as a nice build-up, and kept me pressing forward all the way to the end.

This was a lovely debut, despite the rushed ending, and regardless of whether Appelhans chooses to continue her series by focusing on Felicia or by introducing us to some new characters I will certainly pick up the next volume!

Three and a half stars!


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