***Level 2 promised a thrilling new take on the wave afterlife/angel novels which are currently trending and while Appelhans’ originality in this sense was wonderful, overall the novel left me wanting so much more. Felicia Ward is trapped in a limbo known as Level 2, forced to relive her memories of life on Earth. She spends her time revisiting the memories of time with her parents, best friends, wishing she could see her boyfriend Neil again. When Julian, a boy from a part of her life she’d rather forget, breaks into Level 2 telling Felicia he knows where Neil is, she doesn’t take much convincing to leave with him. Suddenly Felicia is part of a rebellion against the mysterious beings who control Level 2 and must relive some of her worst memories to regain the strength needed to fight. Honestly, I loved the originality of the world Appelhans created, but it fell flat for me. One of the most intriguing elements of Level 2 was the ability to somehow magically think something into existence, yet this aspect was one of the most under-developed of the entire novel. While I eventually just went with it, I was slightly annoyed that this was never explained. At all. The monotony of Level 2, while essential to the feel of the novel, also frustrated me and if I’m being completely honest made reading the book boring at times. However, I really enjoyed Appelhans’ writing style and I loved the use of memories in the afterlife. I loved the fact that Felicia could pick, choose and live memories again. In life our memories are segmented and we can never fully remember everything that happened in an exact moment or relive the feelings which were associated with that moment. To be honest, this may have been where I wanted more, or perhaps something completely different, from this novel. At times I felt like I wanted to be reading about Felicia’s life rather than her afterlife. Well, that was until the ending when all the memories came together and made sense. The pacing of the novel was quite slow and, at the beginning, I was struggling to stay interested for more than a few pages. I felt like it took too long to get to the point, I mean we don’t even find out about the rebellion or the beings who run Level 2 until page 106. I thought after this revelation the pace would pick up, sadly I was wrong. To me the middle of the book kind of all mixed together – there was lots of running between hives and long corridors and it all blended in my mind. The ending, however, was extremely fast-paced, in an almost hyperactive, drinking-too-much-red-cordial kind of way. Suddenly, we went from reliving memories to a full on battle. I really liked the way the novel was wrapped up, but I just wish it had lasted longer. Overall, Level 2 really left me with no strong feelings, either good or bad. I’m curious as to how the series will continue, but I felt like I could happily read this as a standalone. While the writing was lovely and the afterlife level concept original, I’m not sure this will stand out in my mind or a crowded YA marketplace.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing a copy of the book for review.