Release Date: January 15, 2013
(Thanks to ATWT for allowing me to participate on this tour!)
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Level 2 (The Memory Chronicles #1) by Lenore Appelhans
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 downloading memories 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 then he promises what she wants the 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 all mankind.
1. (+/-) Felicia, the protagonist - There were times when I really wanted to empathize with Felicia. She's trying to be a better person after doing something terrible, so I gave her a second chance. I liked that Lenore Appelhans created such a flawed protagonist, someone who felt more realistic than the cut and dry smart and strong female protagonist. At times, though, it was just too hard to relate to Felicia. For one, it takes a very long time to get the big reveal(s), so whenever Felicia would mention how she wasn't worthy, etc. etc., it seemed more like she had self esteem issues, not that she felt guilty. She is smart and strong at times, but she's also a bit self-absorbed. She travels a lot because of her mother's job, so when it comes to "renting" memories, hers are often chosen because people love to travel. That might seem like a normal statement - there's a bit of dry humor re: people renting her memory of a good steak - but there's something about her tone then that just rubs me the wrong way. And especially when I think of how this whole book seems to revolve around her, Chosen One and all. She has had bad experiences (the traveling led to one particularly frightening scene), and her parents are clearly neglectful--her father is nice, but her mother chooses work over her--but none of that was enough to really make me like her. It made her feel real.
2. (+/-) World Building - Again mixed feelings. Everything is white and bland and you have no hair or clothes besides a white sheath as you sit in your pod and relive your memories, doped by gas whenever you try to do something else. I liked the idea of reviewing your memories before moving on. But was I supposed to imagine Level 2 as a building? There's also the Isolation mist and the Lethe and the Phlegethon, so then is it more like an arena or? What is the scope of Level 2? I had a very hard time, even after the description re: the amount of pods per block, imagining the world. And I didn't understand why certain Greek mythology/some rivers were included but not others. I wanted the world to be more developed.
3. (+/-) Romance - More mixed feelings. I loved that Lenore Appelhans made Felicia's main love interest, Neil, be a church-going nerd. Pretty original and sweet and the kind of guy you'd want to support you. That being said, while I understand that we're coming at it from Felicia's POV (she thinks herself unworthy of Neil's attentions), he seemed too perfect, and as such, he didn't feel as real to me. Maybe I'm just really cynical to not believe in that kind of teen guy existing? I don't know. They also didn't feel all that compatible -- they lacked chemistry. Why was Neil attracted to Felicia? Did he want to fix her or something? I could see why Felicia turned to him but not the other way around. I also appreciate that Lenore Appelhans differentiated between Julian and Neil's love - obsession and actual love vs. the way some love triangles are written - but found it ironic that Felicia would sometimes criticize Julian for having an obsession with her when her love for Neil sometimes bordered on co-dependent/obsessive. Also, Julian is just a confusing subject. There are a lot of twists regarding him, his past and his choices that still don't make sense to me. And Felicia's behavior towards him is questionable because sometimes she says she doesn't trust him, and then she stays with him/turns to him for help.
4. (--) Explanations - A lot of the explanations in this book did not make sense to me. You see that last line in the synopsis about Felicia being really special? I didn't understand why, or rather the given explanation was one I didn't believe. I would give more details about it, but I don't want to spoil it for you. Julian's explanations didn't make sense to me either. You learn about some secrets other characters are keeping too, and those I didn't understand either--why even pretend? Everything still feels like one big mystery.
5. (--) The villains - The Morati did not feel real. Perhaps this is because I thought the last 1/3 of the book was really rushed, and that was when they played their part. Maybe it's also because you find out what the Morati do, and then they're there for not very long. They also don't have one specific leader to name; they're an entity? (or what feels like an entity) of evil, which I find harder to believe.
6. (--) Big Reveal(s)/Transitions/Pacing - There are two big reveals about Felicia's past -- one, what she did that makes her feel so unworthy, and two, why she has nightmares. Both felt rushed and underdeveloped to me, given how much weight they have in Felicia's conscience. In general, I thought that there were a lot of elements that were rushed in this book, like the transitions from stages one to three in the Rebels' plan. The pacing was pretty uneven (as I said above).
7. (+) Incorporation of Religion - One thing I will say is that this book managed to incorporate religion well / in a non-preachy way. It's a book about the afterlife, and Felicia meets Neil at church camp, and yet that's what happens. It wasn't offensive nor was it trying to pass on a message to the readers.
8. (+) Unpredictable - I also couldn't predict what was coming next, which is really good since this book is full of twists and turns, and it kept my interest since I did want to know what would happen next...
9. (+) Writing - It's smooth and easy to read.
10. (+) The Cover - This cover is a fantastic representation of Felicia in her memory pod (though I'm a little uncertain as to why she has hair. If I remember correctly, they were supposed to be bald?). It also has a very futuristic/alternate universe type of feel to it, much like the book does.
I'm still kind of confused thinking about everything that happened. I don't know what I'd rate this book or really even how I feel about it. Would a reread help? I don't know. I think one of the problems (for me at least) is that this book is very much a Felicia book. If you can't get on board with Felicia, you're going to have a hard time.