Title: Level 2 (The Memory Chronicles, #1)
Author: Lenore Appelhans
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Release Date: January 15th, 2013
For me, the biggest appeal of Level 2 was the fact that it was written by a blogger. I was so enthralled that a blogger had been able to get her book published and, best of all, who else knew best the pitfalls that most authors stumbled across better than a blogger herself? Thus, Level 2 seemed like a novel that could do no wrong. In many ways, it couldn’t (although it’s synopsis seems to think it’s going to get more readers by hinting at a love triangle when there is no love triangle in this story at all). Yet, despite the unique concept, excellent writing ability, and creative characterization, it is disappointing to note that Level 2, is, after all, missing something.
Appelhans’s debut is one of those novels where revealing too much can ruin the story. Thus, I will keep my synopsis brief enough to merely say that it is an original spin on afterlife. As humans, we live on Level 1, or Earth, and are then transported to Level 2, an in-between place between Earth and Heaven, Level 3. On Level 2, everyone who has died now has access to their memories and the goal of this level is to ultimately come to terms with your death and move on. Felicia, the protagonist of our tale, is living in Level 2, blissfully unaware of a rebellion that is going on with the angels who guard Level 2. When Julian, her ex-best friend’s boyfriend, shows up promising Felicia that she can be re-united with her boyfriend, Neil, she doesn’t hesitate to join in the rebellion. Only, there is more to what is going on in Level 2 than what Julian initially has Felicia believe and even after all these years, Felicia isn’t quite sure she can trust the boy she lost her best friend for…
What Level 2 excels in is its characterization. From the very beginning, we are thrown into memories of Felicia’s past and through her eyes, we re-live her romance with Neil, a budding and beautiful story, her fall out with her best friend, her days spent making out with Julian without telling her best friend, her strained relationship with her parents…we see it all. We witness Felicia’s ups and downs and although it all comes together very slowly, the pieces of her traumatic past and her ultimate death seeming to take forever to unfold, it’s worth the wait. I love that Felicia is a flawed and unlikeable protagonist; I love that it is her who is the bad guy, the one who messed up, the person who is wrong. Yet, what I love most is that we can see that it isn’t all her fault and that, deep inside, just as her boyfriend Neil sees, is some good.
In this manner, Felicia is one of the most in-depth characters I’ve come across and her relationship with everyone, from her friends to teachers to parents to her own boyfriend, are all richly complex and a thrill to read. Even her unfolding romance, one that is endearingly sweet, only adds to the multi-faceted characterization of Appelhan’s protagonist and really, it was this aspect of the story that truly made Level 2 such a powerful novel – the part of it that resorted to becoming a contemporary tale. Unfortunately, however, Level 2 is a science-fiction novel and it is in this genre placement that the novel falters. While the mystery of Felicia’s past kept me flipping the pages in anticipation, forming bonds with the characters and barely containing my excitement to find out what really happened, the present action of the rebellion utterly lost my interest.
Felicia, with the help of Julian, essentially explores the place known as Level 2, breaking the bonds of the regulations set forth there and attempting to help her friends. I hate to say it, but this so-called “action” was extremely dull. Furthermore, with the exception of witnessing ones memories from the past, there were no truly innovative gadgets or sci-fi elements to this novel, which was a huge disappointment. I could, perhaps, forgive all this for the plot twists were superb and much of the novel is focused on the past, not so much the present, but the ultimate ending was rushed. It had an engaging plot thread, concluding with a plot twist that had quite an element of surprise to it, but then the rest of the novel, to its rather astonishing ending, was a blur.
Thus, I have to say that Level 2 is a novel that I’d more recommend for contemporary instead of science-fiction lovers. Perhaps if you are new to the sci-fi genre, Level 2 will captivate you in a manner that this novel failed to captivate me in, but if you’re more looking for hard-core sci-fi, I’d suggest look elsewhere. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Appelhans’s debut and with her strong characterization, unique thought-processes, and lush writing style, I am already eagerly anticipating her next novel. A slight change of expectations can render this novel a definite favorite among many and joining the ranks of authors to look out for is Lenore Appelhans – without a doubt.
I was given a copy of this book on behalf of DAC ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review. Thank You!