In a white and sterile world, there is life. This is where the story begins, and through flashbacks the author sets up a vast and foreboding set of circumstances that will gradually reveal how Felicia died and where she ended up. As the energy from her memories is being siphoned off, it’s almost like a puzzle to decipher why someone would want to do something like this and why the people around her can’t remember even the basics about themselves or how they got to where they are.
In Applehans’ world, there is a deep symbiotic relationship between the darkness and the light, the powerful and the powerless, and the agents of evil and peace. As Felicia becomes more and more aware of what’s happening around her, she suffers terrible losses and must learn to cooperate with the devil she knows versus the one she doesn’t. This is a complex tangle of science, mysticism and spirituality that seems to defy any box that you can put it into. It’s textured and layered storytelling of the best kind, the type of tale that both compels you to delve deeper into chasm it’s created and to pull away from the darkness that is engulfing everything that Felicia knows and loves.
Even as Julian is saving Felicia, one wonders what his true motives are and what he’s hiding. He seems amiable and sincere, but there’s something hiding underneath, and the group that he has allied with aren’t the nicest sort. As I read, I wondered if there was more to Julian’s saving Felicia than he had asserted, and surely it seemed as though the more I learned about him, the easier it was to distrust him. But the author has a few aces up her sleeve when it comes to the true motives of this character, and the circumstances get even more surreal by the end of the novel.
In Felicia’s heart, there’s only room for one: the one whom she left behind. But the closer she comes to the terrible beings that are holding her and innumerable others prisoner, the closer she comes to the truth about the love she left behind and her life before Level 2. In the perfectly pitched and highly tense narrative, Felicia will find out more than she ever wanted to know, and she’ll have to make a choice that will affect not only her own soul, but that of those around her who are still slumbering in their hives, dreaming of the lives that they will never be a part of again.
I enjoyed this book to the fullest and found myself speculating on character motives, wondering what was coming next, and actively engaging with the cast of very three-dimensional characters that Appelhans created. I was sucked into this white world that suddenly turned vivid and uncannily haunting, and was just as ensnared with the careful and compelling rendition of the plot. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what the author brings me next in her second installment, Level 3. A top notch YA novel. Highly recommended.
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This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.