Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans — 288 pgs

When Felicia is killed in a terrible accident, her bright future is cut short. But death isn’t the end for Felicia, as she has woken up inside a hive of blinding and pristine whiteness. There are others inside the hive, and as they stumble about numbed and forgetful, it seems the only thing that keeps them going is plugging into their separate memory chambers to relive bits and pieces of their lives over and over again. Though Felicia can’t remember much outside of her chamber, she forms a bond with two girls inside her hive and tries to understand what has happened to her. One day, after groggily exiting her chamber with her companions, a stranger with a familiar face seems to penetrate the very walls that are keeping the hive together. It’s Julian, a boy Felicia never expected or wanted to see again. When Julian tells Felicia that she must escape, she’s taken on the most dangerous of journeys, hunted by the beings who are prospering from her and her friend’s memories. As Felicia and Julian get further and further away, the danger becomes more and more apparent, for the sheer unstoppable forces that the enemy are using to hold her will do anything to keep her. But as Felicia and Julian advance, memories of her life come more clearly into focus, and in a place where she can trust only one person, can it be that Julian cannot be trusted at all? In Level 2, Lenore Appelhans gives us a frightening look into the  world between here and heaven, and takes us to the brink of uncertainty through the use of magic, myth and religion in a potent and terrifying thriller that guarantees you will never think of heaven in quite the same way again.

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.

Would you like to win an advance galley? Look in today's Shelf Awareness email!


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

24 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I'm so glad to see this is good since I adore Lenore! I pre-ordered a copy from Fiction Addiction months ago and can't wait to get it!

Wall-to-wall books said...

Wow this sounds like a very strange book! It sounds like something my daughter would like.
I do trust you when you say it is good :-)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm so jealous you got to read this already! I did ask for a galley at Shelf Awareness (along with probably eight million others!) so I am hoping. But when we get to where we are moving, one of my first things to do will be to join the library, and Heather O. assures me the library will be good there! Thanks for the intriguing review!!!

Ti said...

I have to tell you, the way you described the hive gave me chills. I can't imagine waking in a hive and then having to plug-in to a memory chamber. Egads! Sounds very entertaining though!

Ti said...

OMG, you removed CAPTCHA! Yay! Makes it so much easier to post comments now.

Darlene said...

Lenore's great and I'm happy for her - glad to hear its a good read and you enjoyed it so much!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I'm excited to read this one! I requested an ARC, so fingers crossed it comes my way. The premise of it sounds pretty fascinating, so I can't wait to read it. I love how you shared the symbiotic relationship between the darkness and the light, the powerful and powerless; I'm intrigued!

Aarti said...

Ooh, as soon as I saw your review title I wondered if it was THE Lenore who wrote this book, and I see now that it is! Good for her :-) So glad you found the book enjoyable.

Suko said...

This doesn't sound like a book you'd normally read, but it does sound compelling.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I love Lenore! I'm going to buy this one, and I'm sure it will be wonderful because she is wonderful!

Athira said...

I am so glad that you enjoyed this book! I like the concept and am going to try getting this book.

Audra said...

Interesting -- not something I'd typically pick up but now you've got me curious -- I like YA now and then!

Jennifer @ Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I signed up to win a galley. I've heard great things about this book. I hope I get to read it soon. Great review!

Harvee Lau said...

Sounds super imaginative! Must be a great read!

Marie said...

I really need to read this, mostly because I've been a blog follower of Lenore's just about as long as I've been blogging, and she's great. I'm so happy for her success!

Brooke said...

I'm in serious need of a great YA novel and this one seems to be a must read. You have definitely got me interested with this fabulous review! I've heard nothing but good things and can't wait to get my greedy little hands on a copy.

LisaMM said...

Wow, sounds so interesting!! I love Lenore :)

Michelle (my books. my life.) said...

I'm really looking forward to this one. So glad to see you liked it. :)

Jenners said...

So there was no Level 1?

This sounds interesting and a bit different than other books of this type in that she is actually dead (or is she???)

Lenore Appelhans said...

Thanks for reading and reviewing Heather :)
Jenners - Level 1 is where we are now, i.e. earth

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I am so happy to hear you enjoyed it! I absolutely can't wait to read it! :)

Literary Feline said...

I am so glad you reviewed this one, Heather, as I've been curious about it. I've only recently really been getting into YA fiction. You make Level 2 sound so good!

nomadreader said...

I hardly ever read YA anymore, but this one both sounds wonderful and it's by Lenore! I'm so looking forward to it!

Buried In Print said...

What an interesting concept: I'm definitely intrigued!

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