Monday, October 29, 2012

Let's Level Up Already!

Expected Publication:  January 15th, 2013
Level 2 (The Memory Chronicles # 1)
By: Lenore Appelhans
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13:  9781442441859

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.


     Felicia Ward died in a car crash two days before her eighteenth birthday, with no chance to say goodbye to the love of her life.  Now she is trapped in Level 2 of the afterlife, reliving her memories with the original intent of focusing on the ones that will teach her what she needs to learn before moving on.  But the keepers of Level 2, the Morati, have since made adjustments to the procedure and keep Felicia and a host of others locked inside their memories indefinitely so they can siphon their energy in hopes of breaking through to Heaven eventually.  The one of the girls in a chamber beside her own dies and Felicia is the only one her remembers she even existed.  Then Julian, someone from Felicia's mysterious past, finds her and offers to help her find Neil if she helps overthrow the Morati so everyone can move on.  Can she help prevent a Heavenly war or will the Morati triumph in their sinister endeavors?  I went into this very excited because I am a follower of Lenore's blog and the book's premise sounded interesting and not overused like so many other YA novels.  Unfortunately (and I hate saying this) I was left feeling very underwhelmed at the end.  I liked Felicia, but felt no real connection to her.  Learning about her life before Level 2 (a.k.a. Purgatory) was a good buildup for the novel, but at the same time a lot of the writing felt stilted and the characters felt fake.  At times it was like when I was reading Twilight in the sense that Felicia felt like a Bella - a cardboard cutout, easily replaceable.  The idea of the Morati being the lukewarm angels of the rebellion versus the ones who actively participated was a good one.  It was something that made sense - eternal waiting room for the indecisive/"bad" followers of God.  The romance with Neil was unappealing for me, because I personally have never met anyone who is that good, without any visible flaws.  It made him very boring, even as a retroactive love interest.  The whole situation with Autumn and Julian didn't make Felicia sympathetic to me and it just made Julian look like a selfish prick.  Plus the way he manipulates Felicia in Level 2 made me mad.  It felt like Felicia was just there to move the action along by making stupid/good decisions.  At the end when she finally got what she'd wanted for the entire book, I just felt very ambivalent about it.  Overall, an interesting book with lackluster characters and so-so plot resolution (which I will concede was probably in part due to being book 1 in a series).  I probably won't be reading the next one.

VERDICT:  2.5/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. It will be available for purchase on January 15th, 2013.*

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