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.
Level 2 is a book that left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I appreciated that it was written by a blogger – I always love when people I’m familiar with make it in the publishing industry – and I was also intrigued by her idea of the afterlife and found the premise of this book to be very different. But at the same time, I found myself strangely disconnected from the characters and even the plot; while the book was compelling enough in that it kept me coming back and turning pages, I was oddly uncaring about how things would end up. I haven’t ever really had that very shrug-like response to a book before, which makes this a review that’s a little difficult to write.
First off, let me say that, even though the synopsis promises “two loves,” there really is no such thing. That’s right: There IS no love triangle. While Felicia has a history with the two boys, and Julian is with her in the afterlife, she is very much in love with Neil. In fact, she finds herself disgusted and annoyed with Julian due to some circumstances that happened in the past, and would never actually get back together with him. So no cookies for the summary writer, because it’s very misleading and might put off some people who are thoroughly fed up with love triangles.
What I enjoyed the most from this book wasn’t the promised rebellion (which earned a very blah response from me, particularly the fact that Felicia plays such an important role) or even Felicia’s moments in the actual afterlife. Instead, I found her journeys into her memories when she would relive her life to be the most compelling. You’d think that a book essentially filled with flashbacks would be clunky, but it really wasn’t; everything seamlessly flowed together and you finally saw how Felicia’s life was lived. I have to say that Felicia isn’t the best character – she did some things in her life that were downright terrible – and I actually didn’t find her to be very likable in the slightest. My feelings for her definitely didn’t help me connect with her and her plight, and were probably a major contributor to my mixed feelings about the book.
You also have her constant memories of Neil, the too-perfect, church-singing, guitar-playing boy who captures Felicia’s heart. While I appreciate that their love wasn’t confused with lust, I found Neil to be too unrealistic, because no one is that perfect (and the whole purity pledge conversation and Neil’s concern over the town’s feelings about Felicia not wanting to sign it also set my teeth on edge, as it felt very judgmental and definitely rubbed me the wrong way). That being said, I did enjoy some of the church-y memories, and couldn’t help but enjoy the Underground Church game; I kind of wish our youth group had done something like that when I was growing up!
All in all, Level 2 is a mostly-compelling read. While I personally wasn’t really invested in the story, there were aspects that I enjoyed, and I’ve seen plenty of other starred ratings that place it firmly in the “good” category. If you’re looking for a different sort of spin on the afterlife, then check this one out. It’s not perfect, but it’s still a decent way to spend a few hours. I do wonder about this being the first in a series, though, because things are decidedly wrapped up in this book; I’ll be curious to see what the author has planned for the other two installments.
An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.