I should probably begin this review of Level 2 with the acknowledgement that I know the author, Lenore Appelhans, on a more personal level than just author. She is a fellow YA book blogger and someone that I have met in person and shared drinks and bookish conversation with. In fact our initial in person meeting during the BEA cocktail gathering with the Forever YA ladies went something like this:
“Hi. I’m Allison. I co-blog with April…”
“Yes, I know! I love your writing style!”
“Oh wow! I love yours too!”
And we hugged and so began a fun conversation of life and books. All of that being said I can honestly say as I am about to review Level 2 that my personal relationship with the author had no bearing on my opinion of the novel. My opinion has not been swayed in any way.
Now onto the book…
I’ll admit that I was a little nervous to read Level 2 based on the hype that was surrounding it both in the blogging world as well as the publishing world. I was afraid that it wasn’t going to live up to my expectations. Luckily, I had really nothing to fear. Although it did take me a little bit to get into this book, it was totally worth it!
For those of you who don’t know, Level 2 is about a girl named Felicia who is dead but who is trapped in a strange afterlife where she spends her days replaying her memories of her life. Day after day she spends mindless hours replying the memories of her family, friends, boyfriend … and of the boy who broke her heart. That is all that she does until said boy breaks into her afterlife to find her. Before she knows it, Felicia finds herself in the middle of a rebellion, and learns that she must make a choice as to which side she will actually fight for.
Level 2 is intense! At first it is a little confusing which I honestly think that it is supposed to be because you really don’t know what you are getting yourself into. The fun thing is that neither does Felicia! So you’re both on the same level playing field in that way. I loved learning about Felicia through her memories. Learning about the different things she had been through (both good and bad) was a fun way to get to know her character and start to admire her after you learn about what she had been through to get to where she was right now in Level 2. To me it also added a new emotional complexity to the character building as well. It was as if I able to delve into something that was deep and personal all with the complete permission of the character.
Another thing I absolutely loved delving into was the world building within this story. It is so well crafted and multi-dimensional. I really liked the way that faith was addressed in Level 2 because I didn’t feel like it got in the way of the storyline at all. I also felt that it wasn’t preachy or overbearing in anyway which was nice. It is a take on the afterlife that I have never really read about before. I love how the characters can access memories of their own life as well as other people’s memories. The whole concept of the hives and pods was so fun to picture in my mind. It was also relatively easy because of the descriptive details that were used to bring this afterlife to life. The quick pacing of the story also kept me intrigued and the tips of my toes wanting to know more.
I also though it was neat that the memories seem to be rated on some form of a scale, and that the worse memories are the ones that nobody seems to want to access unless they really want to. I thought that was an interesting play into the idea that we often want to forget the bad things that have happened in our lives even though it’s the usually the bad things that make us stronger or that can truly teach us a lesson. Not to say that good memories can also not teach us something but as Level 2 explains in its own unique way bad memories are important too. I LOVED the way that it made me think about this concept and other concepts as well.
I’m really excited to read the next book in the series Level 3 because I really want to know what is going to happen next on Felicia’s journey. Also, I have a few questions that I’m hoping will be answered because even though Level 2 did not end in a cliffhanger (thank goodness), it still left me feeling like there were a few things left unanswered. I’m allowed to have questions, right? I guess I just need a little clarification to sort out my feelings on things. I want to know what will happen to Felicia, Julian, and Neil! I’m also looking forward to seeing how Lenore Appelhans can further expand and build upon the world and the ideas which she has already created. I feel there is so much to work with here, and I can’t wait to read all about it!
Disclosure: Received ARC copy from April (who received it at the Simon & Schuster preview party).
Other reviews of Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans:
VeganYANerds: “Level 2 is a unique story about a girl trying to accept her past mistakes, and find a way to save her afterlife. I’d recommend it to all fans of YA who are looking for something a little different.”