Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A totally unique, brilliantly imagined debut that ventures not only into the nature of the afterlife but puts a spin on what you might think of as good and evil. The main character, Felicia Ward, is an inhabitant of one of the countless hives where people go after they die (the step between Heaven & Earth) to watch their own and other's memories over and over again. Until things start happening, and a boy from her past shows up and she starts to learn what's really going on: that inhabiting the hives means you are a mindless drone under the control of wayward angels that are the guardians of Level 2. Well, almost everyone is a drone . . . except for the rebels working to turn things around.
Absolutely a brilliant premise, and a cool structure with the memories. I think that the memory structure--watching memories almost like videos online-- made it more exciting, with little bits of information from her memories answering questions and hinting at further secrets. Also, I loved the Our Town references--they enriched and gave more depth and insight to the story, and the Greek mythology gave it more of a foundation.
While I felt the whole time that the idea of the story was fascinating, I also felt the execution felt rushed, especially at the end. The pacing was off; I wanted to say wait! I want to hear more about that! That was too fast! But maybe the author is trying to get somewhere fast?
And, Felicia? Betraying your friend by going behind her back with her boyfriend is the worst thing you did? Fighting with your parents? Wow, so awful. Ok, the bit where she ran away after finding . . . (not giving anything away here!!) . . . in her room was pretty awful of her. But honestly, aside from that, what teenage person doesn't disagree with their parents, or live their life making mistakes and figuring out who they are in the process? I had a harder time buying into her character because of that . . . she seemed a little near-sighted.
As for the other characters, Julian was a favorite. Typical charming, hot boy, but seeing him through the perspective of Felicia isn't reliable, so we don't know everything about him. Is he good or bad?! But it was exciting finding out more about Julian at the end . . . made his character so much better and probably will be the thing that gets me to read the next book.
Also, fantastic cover!