Level 2

Level 2Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next.  Along with her fellow prisoners, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost–family, friends, and the boy she loved, Neil.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber disappears, and nobody but Felicia seems to recall she existed in the first place.  Something is obviously very wrong. When Julian–a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life–comes to offer Felicia a way out, she learns the truth: A rebellion is brewing to overthrow the Morati, the guardians of Level 2.

Felicia is reluctant to trust Julian, but them her promises what she wants most–to be with Neil again–if only she’ll join the rebels. Suspended between heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself in the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake..but the salvation of mankind. (Inside cover)

Felicia, who died the day before her eighteenth birthday, exists on Level 2—a whitewashed afterlife somewhere between Heaven and Earth. She is surrounded by girls much like herself. Their days are spent in private chambers where they relive their fondest memories, choosing them the way you’d play a YouTube video.  Felicia’s favorites always include Neil, the boyfriend she left behind, and they fill that quiet, painless void by watching, rewatching and sharing these moments.  All is eerily peaceful until Beckah, a girl from Felicia’s ward, disappears and no one other than Felicia can remember her.

Veddy interesting so far, right?

Enter Julian—smokin hot guy with a questionable rep (and an accent, sold!). Felicia knew him on Earth and let’s just say that J-man does not bring back the best of memories. He’s  reminder of her tainted history, of a time she’d much rather forget by fawning over flashbacks of Neil.  But Julian knows about Beckah. He seems to know about everything, including all of Level 2 and the mysterious hives that house multitudes of people.  Felicia is wary of Julian until he promises he’ll lead her to Neil in exchange for her help.

So, accent? Bad boy? I was hooked. The problem for me is, to tell you much more of the story would let loose some serious spoilers, but I’ll try.

Felicia is asked to join in with rebel forces teamed up against the Morati, the evil angels guarding Level 2. She’s overwhelmed by her desire to find Neil, but the fears trusting Julian again. The driving force behind her cooperation, other than her intoxication with Neil, is her desire to find her friend Beckah again.

I need to stop there so as not to get too crazy confusing and to psyched to overshare. Suffice it to say, I really liked this book. The premise was totally different, intriguing because it deal with the afterlife–something we’ve all wondered about–but so neatly woven through with Felicia’s memories that I feel I knew her in her physical life as well.  I loved Julian (sucker for a bad boy) who brought out her darker side, but I also adored Neil. Felicia struggled so much with viewing herself as damaged good because of past mistakes, but Neil made efforts to show her she wasn’t hopeless.

There are tons of interesting themes here as well. Outside of afterlife and angels, there’s Christian imagery (Felicia meets Neil at church, so much time is spent there)  as well as Greek mythology references. Appelhans weaves these two together in an interesting way without being too forceful about a certain belief system.  The whole thing raises interesting questions about religion in general, and how your waking life plays into your afterlife.

My only complaint is the ending. The story is paced in such a way that I was dying to know certain events Felicia alludes to several time. I wanted to know why she didn’t trust Julian and the events that led her to where she came to live with her Grandmother instead of her parents. And I wanted to know how she died. We find all of this out, but it felt crammed together in a matter of pages. I was sort of overwhelmed with the amount of flashbacks and revelations that I got a bit confused and had to reread some of it.  In the end though, I was still hungry for the next book.

Crush Intensity: 4.25/5

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing me with a review copy as part of The Selective Collective feature.

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