Friday, August 2, 2013

The Memory of After/Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

Note: I'm going to call the book Level 2 in this review because that is the title I first knew the book by and that is the title on my copy, though it has been renamed The Memory of After.

Release date: January 15, 2013
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Format: ARC
Source: Won from publisher
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
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 drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost-family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian--a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life--comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.

Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at 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.
I think Level 2 had a lot of potential. Sadly, I also think the story got too caught up in creating a foreboding feeling about what "dark" events happened in Felicia's life (which were, admittedly, pretty darn dark) and in setting up (in many ways, forcing) a love triangle that really isn't one. With this preoccupation, the plot never hit a good stride, nor did the scenes that take place in level 2 feel like they were fully realized.

Though I can't say I really liked the book, I do think it has a few things going for it. First, the idea of level 2 itself, along with the mixture of religion and mythology incorporated into it, is absolutely fascinating. I was very interested in hearing how it came to be controlled by the Morati and liked getting to see outside of the hives. Second, I think it creates a decent jumping off point for a discussion about death. I'm not going to go into that here... But I liked seeing an integration of religion without any judging or condemnation of anyone.

Even so, I never could get into the happenings on level 2. About halfway through I realized that it never felt like the events had the impact they should have. Maybe with a bit more development they would have worked better, but I never found them as compelling as the flashbacks to Felicia's life. That was what kept me reading. I wanted to know what had happened to her to create the reactions she received from her family. The memories had a lot more impact as individual scenes.

I was also not a fan of the ending. While the mechanics (I guess that's the best noun for it...) were interesting and it was a plot twist I definitely liked, everything happened so fast and really didn't have much explanation. Most of the book felt almost leisurely to me, with the characters travelling all over level 2 without really doing much, and then all of the sudden everything happened! And it was over. It was very rushed and matter of fact, not my kind of ending.

While I'm certainly not a big fan of Level 2, I can't necessarily say it's a bad book--especially because I am so fascinated by level 2 and loved the flashbacks. I think there are plenty of people who will love it. I am interested to see where this goes as a series and will most likely try out the sequel.

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