LEVEL 2 by Lenore Appelhans

LEVEL 2 by Lenore Appelhans (aka Presenting Lenore, a blogger I’ve read for a long time and even met a few times in person) is part one of three in the Memory Chronicles.  Appelhans is creating an alternate afterlife to the one many current religions teach, but her afterlife has roots in mythology and a modern twist.  Felicia Ward’s life is cut short, but readers are kept in the dark about that aspect until the end, which really doesn’t impede the story.  Dipping in and out of her memories with her family, friends, and boyfriend, Felicia remains connected with her earth life and to the emotions she felt there.  In many ways, the chamber in which she relives and calls up these memories is her life line to the past, preventing her from examining her surroundings more fully and questioning the new reality she finds herself in.

“And now I can’t sleep.  Except, that is, when I access my memories of sleeping.  You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve combed through the seventeen years and 364 days of my life, searching for those rate uninterrupted, nightmare-free stretches of slumber.  Because sleep is my only real break from this endless reel of memories, both mine and those I’ve rented.”  (page 1-2)

Felicia’s experiences are guarded and her memories of the traumatic events in her life are revealed slowly in this first-person point of view novel, which provides a sense of suspense that becomes a bit overwrought toward the end as the reader is anxious to learn how she died and what happened between her, Autumn, and Julian, as well as how she met Neil and what happened to him.  However, a lot of the story is focused on Level 2, its structure, and its purpose as it is revealed to her through someone she already had trust issues with on Earth, so information from him is highly suspect from the beginning, which should lead readers to expect or suspect the twists at the end of the novel.

“In moments like this I wonder whether we are bound together by true feelings of kinship or if we’ve merely clung to each other these past ten years out of obligation, fear, or lack of other prospects.  Her huge doll collection made her the ideal friend back when we first met at out post in Ecuador and at our subsequent stint back in D.C., but since we both got to Frankfurt a year ago last summer, after four years apart, I’m starting to think maybe I’ve outgrown her.  That’s what moving so often can do to you.  It makes you continually question your place in the world, and seek out those few who understand what you’re going through.”  (page 120-1)

The hives in Level 2 are reminiscent of the Matrix movies (as well as the elements of a rebellion), which makes them lack some originality, but there is a back story to its creation that was more imaginative and unfortunately is less detailed than some readers may want, though there are more books planned for this series, which could lead to additional description and better world building.  Meanwhile, Appelhans does raise some questions about the reliability of memory and whether it can be manipulated by others or by the owner of those memories to change the outcome or modify the perception of certain events.  This aspect of the story is very unique and psychological, a part of the story that should be expanded.

Felicia is a strong character at some points and weak at others.  She’s especially weak when navigating the Level 2 environs with someone she does not trust, and says more than once that she is too weak to go off on her own, even when she really isn’t as weak as when she first woke.  However, her fear of the unknown is something that propelled her on Earth and still seems to propel her in this new environment, so it is at least understandable and will hopefully be explored/overcome in future books.  Autumn is a bit one-dimensional, which makes it hard to see why Felicia is so torn about the friendship, though that could be attributed to the memories Felicia reveals to the reader.  Felicia’s relationship with Julian and Neil are both explored, though there really isn’t a love triangle.  LEVEL 2 by Lenore Appelhans is a solid debut, young adult fiction novel that hovers around bigger issues of memory and anchoring oneself with self-confidence without overtly addressing them.  It is fast-paced and suspenseful, but some readers may prefer a deeper exploration of these themes and/or a more linear story line than the dipping in and out of Felicia’s memories.

About the Author:

Lenore Appelhans’ novel, LEVEL 2, will be published by Simon & Schuster in fall 2012.  She blogs at Presenting Lenore about books and loves to travel.  She’s been to 55 countries so far, and she currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany, with her 3 fancy Sacred Birman cats and her husband.  Check out her interview during Dystopian August, a video discussion, the Reader’s Guide.

This is my 14th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.


  1. I still can’t believe I haven’t read this yet. It is actually next on the shelf, though! I am excited to begin it!

  2. Excellent review! While I enjoyed the narrator of this one, I wish I had read it in print.

  3. Serena! Thanks so much for reading <3

  4. I’d want more world building too in a novel like this.

    • I really was lost a bit in this one from time to time. But overall it was a good read, but it didn’t wow me as I was expecting.

  5. I’m so excited for Lenore, I can hardly stand it. I’ve bought the book and hope to read it one of these days – I’m glad it’s a solid effort.

    • I just saw this one at the library and had to pick it up before a young adult reader snagged it. So excited for Lenore, and can’t wait to read the next in the series.

  6. I’m probably the kind of reader who will want more details, but I’m glad to hear she delves into the structure of Level 2. I hope to read this at some point.

    • This was a relatively quick, suspenseful read, but I wanted more world building. I felt lost in a fog so-to-speak as Felicia navigates the world she’s in.