The Selective Collective: Level 2 Discussion

Welcome to The Selective Collective. Together with our friends at The Book Addict’s Guide, Gone Pecan, The Grown Up YA and Teen Lit Rocks, we’ll be exploring a new release in its entirety, from review to author spotlight, to a roundtable chat, among other fun things.

This week we’re discussing Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans. You guys, I loved this book. It was awesome.

Level 2

Since 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)

This week I get the chance to host a roundtable discussion with my fellow SC ladies and you know what? It’s hard to come up with questions that don’t have spoilers! Ack! But here we go:

1. The drones in Felicia’s hive spend endless hours viewing memories of their human lives before hopefully moving on to the next level. How can their insistence on viewing only their happiest memories help or hurt their ability to pass on?

The drones do spend endless hours viewing only their happiest memories.  Of course, it’s only natural.  Who wouldn’t want to see those happiest of moments in their lives over and over again?  Just imagine being able to see moments like that “miraculous” Christmas morning when Santa brought that most desired toy, the day that you passed your driving test, your first kiss, your wedding day, or  the birth of your child.  There are so many moments in life that are taken for granted.  The drones have an opportunity not only to view them, but to appreciate them.  However, our lives are not made up solely of happy moments.  Everyone has memories that are painful.  Dealing with painful experiences help us grow emotionally and spiritually.  It is also all of our experiences that help shape us into the people that we are.  The drones were missing out on the opportunity to grow stronger by viewing those painful moments.  In the same way that those experiences shaped them into becoming the people that they were before their deaths, the memories of those experiences would help them become stronger and come to terms with their lives.  Then they would be ready to move on to the next level.  Unfortunately, the drones continue in this manner because of circumstances beyond their control.  Once Felicia discovers the truth, she begins to go back and view her painful memories and they do begin to empower her.   She begins to feel the power that those painful memories bring to her and as she comes to terms with the consequences of those memories.  -Diana @ Teen Lit Rocks

2. The author uses a creative mixture of religion, mythology and a unique, almost space-age backdrop to create a dystopic afterlife. How do these themes compare to your own ideas of life after death?

I thought it was interesting that the author created this section between earth (Level 1) and Heaven (Level 3) that people essentially wait in until they figure out their purpose on earth before going on to Heaven. I think a few different religions/denominations believe in this waiting area, or a Limbo, while you are waiting to go to Heaven. As someone who doesn’t believe in this place (Limbo), though, I’ve personally never thought about a waiting area before getting to Heaven. I’ve just thought that you die and then your soul goes to Heaven, no waiting required. Probably not the way it works, but I like believing it does! I did, however, love seeing this idea of a Limbo area being explored and how unique it was – at first the idea of sitting around watching memories was odd to me, but I loved what the purpose of it was. Don’t want to add that for spoilers! I also really enjoyed the mix of the angels’ fall and their “revenge” on God – was definitely different to see that in there! As for my ideas of life after death, I haven’t quite figured out what I think will happen or where I’ll go. I don’t think I’ll go anywhere to sit around and wait, but I like the idea of just hanging out and getting to relive memories, especially if it’s like YouTube! – Candice @ The Grown Up YA

3. There are moments of symbolism that run between Felicia’s memories and her life in Level 2 (the bee keeping, the hives, the figure eights). What do you think the author was trying to convey?

I loved the symbolism in this book, but I’m not entirely sure the author was trying to convey a deep message in them. More than anything, I think she was giving symmetry between Felicia’s life and her afterlife. And I think she was, in Felicia’s life on Earth, foreshadowing some of the things that might be meaningful to her in her death–things like the special knock Julian does to get around Level 2 (the same secret knock she and Neil create during the lock-in at church) or the set up of the hives in Level 2 being reminiscent of a particularly sweet memory she had with Neil.  In any case, I loved they ways these ideas and images repeated both in Felicia’s memories and in her “life” on Level 2. – Tee @ YA Crush

4. Felicia is convinced of her love for Neil and she constantly relives her memories of him. Watching her evolution through those flashbacks, do you think Neil was good or bad for her?

This is a really hard question to answer! I was conflicted the whole book about Felicia’s driving need to reunite with Neil because I felt like it was both helpful and harmful at the same time. Her connection with Neil was so strong that it really gave her something to fight for in Level 2 and gave her a purpose to keep moving and pushing through when she struggled. At the same time, Neil was kind of a blinder for Felicia. She was SO determined to reach him that she would do it at any cost, including pushing herself when she didn’t have the strength or putting others in danger as well as herself because all she could see was Neil. Was he more helpful or harmful to Felicia’s cause? I guess the readers will just have to pick up the book to find out! :)- Brittany @ The Book Addict’s Guide

5. During her life on Earth, Felicia seemed plagued by guilt from past decisions–things that affected Autumn, Julian and her family. Do you think her guilt was justified or was she being too hard on herself?

Felicia’s situation with Julian and Autumn put her in a near impossible position.  She gave into temptation and her lust for Julian all the while knowing what it would do to Autumn if she were to find out.  If I were in her position, I would feel tremendous guilt, too.  In this case, I don’t think she was being too hard on herself.  Would she have been better off telling Autumn from the beginning about Julian’s interest in her or should she have just not given into him?  I don’t know.  I still don’t understand why she gave in, anyway, despite her attraction to him because she didn’t actually seem to like him.  But on the other hand, there’s no reason to keep reliving it because what’s past is past and she cannot change it.  Going forward from here, she would be wise to accept her bad decisions and learn from them.  Also, a sincere apology is called for in both the situation with Autumn and her family.- Daphne @ Gone Pecan

Please be sure to visit my blogging partners in The Selective Collective and check out the great things they have in store:

The Book Addict’s Guide- Review

Gone Pecan-Author Q&A

The Grown Up YA- Casting Call

Teen Lit Rocks- Edgy Girls & Good Boys

Sincere thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending all of the SC girls review copies of Level 2!

The Selective Collective: Great Workplace Friendships

Welcome to one of our newest features, The Selective Collective. Together with our friends at The Book Addict’s Guide, Gone Pecan, The Grown Up YA and Teen Lit Rocks, we’ll be exploring a new release in its entirety, from review to author spotlight, to a roundtable chat, among other fun things.

This week, we’re discussing Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo.


Love and Other Perishable Items, Random House

Love is awkward, Amelia should know.

From the moment she sets eyes on Chris, she is a goner. Lost. Sunk. Head over heels infatuated with him. It’s problematic, since Chris, 21, is a sophisticated university student, while Amelia, is 15.

Amelia isn’t stupid. She knows it’s not gonna happen. So she plays it cool around Chris—at least, as cool as she can. Working checkout together at the local supermarket, they strike up a friendship: swapping life stories, bantering about everything from classic books to B movies, and cataloging the many injustices of growing up. As time goes on, Amelia’s crush doesn’t seem so one-sided anymore. But if Chris likes her back, what then? Can two people in such different places in life really be together?

Through a year of befuddling firsts—first love, first job, first party, and first hangover—debut author Laura Buzo shows how the things that break your heart can still crack you up. (Goodreads)

Amelia knows  Chris—her first heartbreaking, soul-gripping crush—because they work together at the cash registers of Coles Supermarket. In fact, Chris trained Amelia. And while Love and Other Perishable Items is very much about Amelia and her infatuation with Chris, life at Coles, including the various other co-workers—the stoners, the make out partners that shouldn’t have been, the friends, the misunderstood—plays an integral part in the story. Here Buzo sets up a realistic background, one to which we can all relate. The conversations, the conflicts and the banter all ring true and offer up a confirmation that the relationships created in such circumstances, for better or worse, make a deep impression on us all.

In discussing this with my SC partners, Sandie at Teen Lit Rocks suggested that we explore books with powerful workplace relationships. It didn’t take long for us to come up with a list of books with memorable casts surrounding characters who were often experiencing their first jobs, first exposure to the drama, the fun of the fights, the meddling and the laughs.  Here are just a few memorable ones:

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

the truth about foreverWhen Macy’s boyfriend goes away to Brain Camp (yeah, you read that right) and dumps her via e-mail, she stumbles upon a job at Wish Catering. Here she meets the crushworthiest of guys, Wes, but she also gains an impressive, if not somewhat kooky, group of friends in Bert (Wes’s brother), Kristy and Monica. It’s through these friends that Macy is invigorated. She finds herself and discovers what she loves about life again. I really don’t think that would have happened without these friends who welcomed her into their “family” and accepted her.

Lola and The Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

LolaFirst of all, Lola has what may be one of the coolest part-time jobs ever. She works in a movie theater!  She develops a relationship with co-worker, Anna (of Anna and The French Kiss) and Anna’s boyfriend St. Clair (le sigh), who doesn’t actually work there but hangs around so much that he probably should just give in and get hired.  It’s through this couple that Lola really sees what she wants out of romantic love. They exemplify all that is sweet and real about love and devotion, and this causes Lola to evaluate her current boyfriend situation as well as her relationship with Cricket, the boy she grew up crushing on.  This is truly one of the cutest relationships ever.

Past Perfect by Leila Sales

Past PerfectThis book focuses almost entirely on the workplace. Maybe it’s because Chelsea works at Essex Historical Colonial Village (she gets to wear colonial clothing in the dead heat of summer. Jealous?). Or maybe it’s because of the epic war the kids at Essex have going on with the ones who work across the way at Civil War Renactmentland. All I know is, this book is hilarious, from the conversations that happen with Chelsea’s fellow employees (their insistence on calling those from Civil War Renactmentland farbs, which stands for far be it from authentic, should clue you in on the level of nerdiness here), to the ex-boyfriend who just had to get a summer gig at Essex, to Chelsea’s utter contempt for her job, Leila Sales nailed the little annoyances, the laughs and the strange sense of unity that comes from a group of people who are forced by circumstance to be a team.

Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald

Getting Over Garrett DelaneyOver the summer, Sadie, in an effort to stop missing her BFF and silent crush, Garrett, gets a job at Totally Wired, a local coffee shop she frequents. It’s here that Sadie meets Josh, LuAnn and Dominique, the crew that watches her daily lamenting over Garrett and his latest love, sees how willing she is to change herself to make him want her, and they work little by little to convince her otherwise.  This book not only explores the power (and fun) or such relationships with co-workers, but it also opens up valuable discussions on self-worth and how far one should be willing to go to make compromises to win or keep the one they love.  It has such a great message.

Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols

Such a RushLeah has worked for Hall Aviation for years, earning some much-needed spare cash and discounted flying lessons. In her years there she’s developed a tumultuous relationship with one of the Hall boys, Grayson. His twin brother, Alex is very kind to Leah, but Grayson sometimes treats her with disdain. When the boys’ father dies, against all odds the three try to keep his business running. Here they’re very much a team, almost like a real family. I loved the dynamic they shared; there was love, romance, friendship and jealousy, sibling rivalry and secrets. And most of the book took place right there at the airport.

These were just a few examples. Let me know if you have a favorite I’ve missed! Also, please be sure to visit my blogging partners in The Selective Collective and check out the great things they have in store:

The Book Addict’s Guide- Author Q & A

Gone Pecan- Roundtable Discussion

The Grown Up YA- Review

Teen Lit Rocks- Casting Call

Thank you to Random House for sending us all copies of Love  and Other Perishable Items.  I really enjoyed it!