Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
Summary: After dying just before her 18th birthday, Felicia awakens in a white, pod-filled world. She, along with the other girls in her hive, can access memories of her life. But this afterlife seems to stretch on forever; her fellow hive-mates are mindless and not much company. When things begin to go wrong—pods malfunctioning, hive-mates disappearing—Felicia finds herself caught up in a rebellion that she didn’t even know existed.
My thoughts: Level 2 is incredibly inventive. Lenore Appelhans combines the afterlife with a mix of The Matrix and YouTube. It sounds crazy, but it works. The set-up of Felicia’s afterlife allows for easy character development: we learn about who Felicia was through YouTube-esque (view counts, ratings and all!) flashbacks, and we learn about who Felicia is through her actions in the hives. By the end, Felicia is a fully fleshed-out, vivid character.
Though the world of Level 2 is stunning, the way it is revealed to us leaves little time for the details to sink in. I found myself flipping back to explanatory paragraphs, unable to fully form a picture in my mind. But I suppose that’s the point—Felicia’s afterlife is so easily altered and so strange that picturing it might not be worthwhile. Even now, when I attempt to draw on Level 2 in my mind, I only see whiteness and ovular shapes, representative of the pods or the hives.
Level 2 features two young men, but worry not: you won’t find any love triangles here. Rather, you see the development of two separate relationships that take place in different times. One is more pure and tingle-inducing; the other is slightly unsettling but passionate. I loved both male characters in Level 2; their differences only highlighted how interesting they each were.
Though Level 2 relies heavily on flashbacks (emotional, wonderful flashbacks), it’s still quite a fast-paced novel. The memories only seem to up the tension, rather than interrupting the flow of action. Fans of dystopian novels will enjoy Level 2 because of its high-energy chase scenes (gotta evade those evil overlords!) and its distinct world.
For those who like: stories from the afterlife, flashbacks, sci-fi
Comment question: Felicia is able to choose which memories she’d like to access from her pod. If you were in her situation, which memory would you call forth first?