Author: Lenore Appelhans
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Source: won a giveaway copy from the author
Plot Summary 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.
I was pretty psyched when I found out that I won a copy of Level 2 from Lenore Appelhan's blog, Presenting Lenore. I'd heard a lot of good hype about this YA dystopian release ever since I started the blog last year, so when Lenore asked me if I wanted the UK edition (available immediately) or if I wanted to wait for the US edition (releasing next week), it was no contest.
(Bonus while reading the UK edition: they use cool words like "torch" instead of "flashlight". LOVE THE BRITS.)
Level 2 sucked me in early on, as I tried to figure out Felicia's past, as well as her current surroundings. After death, she arrived in a bright-white "hive" with thousands of other "drones"--humans like her who have died, and now spend the majority of their days watching the happy memories of their lives. No one in the hive questions their existence--until Julian, Felicia's ex-boyfriend, suddenly breaks in and tells her he's coming back for her. At this point, Felicia realizes that something more than her happy memories exist in this afterlife, and she has to find out what it is.
First off, what a cool way of thinking about life after death! Appelhans incorporates both Biblical and mythological beliefs in her creation of Level 2. It's a perfect mix, because it's not overly Biblical (for the less-religious readers), but at the same time, I think most Christians could see the possibilities in this interpretation too. Plus, Felicia considers a wide variety of other possibilities along the way, as she gathers more details about her environment. In the end, Appelhans gets an A+ for clear and concise world-building, while also leaving room for readers to put their own spin on things.
Felicia is an engaging character. Because her entire past isn't revealed right away, you see many conflicting sides of her personality throughout the novel. This leaves you to question her true nature--was she a rebel who was forced to reform? Or was she a good girl in unfortunate circumstances? You don't find out her full story until the end, and the guessing game makes her an intriguing protagonist. Plus, her relationship with Neil (her boyfriend at the time that she died) is awesome. I thought it was a little sappy at first, but as I got to know Felicia and her troubled past, I grew to see it as a perfect match for her.
After the initial excitement of the introduction, the novel keeps up a good pace. I like how Felicia's memories of her life were used to break up the action in the hive--it kept the story moving and continually left new questions to be answered. Every new memory revealed felt like Pandora's box when its implications were added into the plot.
My one disappointment was in the ending. It felt entirely too rushed. So rushed, in fact, that I went back and re-read the last 20 pages, to be sure that I didn't miss something. There's an entire battle with the opposing side that felt like it could have taken up half the book, but instead is covered in just a few paragraphs. And when the "bad guys" actually show up for the first time, it happens very quickly and feels anti-climactic after all the build up. There's also a poorly-timed reveal of a memory of Felicia's 13-year-old self that makes part of the ending a bit confusing. I think the memory should have been explained a bit earlier in the story so that it's later significance could be more clear. In general--it was just a very messy outcome for me, which was unfortunate after such an otherwise evenly-paced and well-explained novel.
Despite my concerns with the conclusion, I am interested in reading Level 3, the next installment in this series. Level 2 ended in a very different place than I originally expected, which leaves me curious about exactly what direction Level 3 could take. For that reason, I will certainly be on the lookout for the sequel in 2014.
Now, who's ready for a GIVEAWAY?
(My first international one, no less!!)
Lenore was kind enough to autograph my copy of Level 2 when she sent it along (woot!). So I'm not giving that up, sorry y'all. :)
HOWEVER! I decided to buy a copy of Level 2 for one lucky reader, so that I can share the reading love that Lenore passed on to me.
One "grand prize" winner will receive a copy of Level 2, as well as a Level 2 postcard (signed by Lenore!) and a Level 2 magnet.
Seven (yes, SEVEN!) runners-up will receive a Level 2 postcard signed by the author (thanks Lenore for all the swag!).
Sound good? Then ENTER! Check out the Rafflecopter below. This is an international giveaway (because I'll be sending the book via Book Depository)! So come one, come all! Giveaway ends on release day (January 15).
a Rafflecopter giveaway