“LEVEL 2,” by Lenore Appelhans, Simon & Schuster, Jan. 15, 2013, Hardcover, $17.99 (young adult)
Felicia Ward is surrounded by white. She spends her days in a white shift, reclining in a white chamber, alone.
Alone with her memories. Vivid memories that play out in full Technicolor. Emotions remain.
But Felicia isn’t alone — at least not physically. She’s just one of many drones playing out their own lives, sharing memories of food, places they’ve been, great loves.
It’s a stark existence and most drones don’t want to remember how they got there — how they died. Most would rather keep to themselves, surrounding themselves with good memories.
Felicia is different. Sure, she feels the addictive draw of plugging, but she also keenly misses the human connection. She misses Neil. She misses his friendship. She misses his arms around her. So Felicia makes friends, or as close to friends as you can have where she’s at. It’s something tangible in a world where not much else is. Until it isn’t.
When one of Felicia’s friends is found dead, no one but Felicia remembers she even existed. It’s a blow Felicia wasn’t expecting and it prepares her for what’s to come next — rebellion.
It turns out Felicia isn’t as alone as she once thought. Julian, a dangerous guy from Felicia’s life, suddenly appears and offers Felicia a chance to not only break out of her hive, but join the revolt against the beings who put her there in the first place.
“Level 2” isn’t told sequentially. Readers learn more about Felicia’s past as her future unfolds. Readers will either like it or hate it. I found the lack of upfront knowledge refreshing. It helped me immediately relate to Felicia’s state and the confusion as to how she got there. Truth be told, “Level 2” would be boring if written another way.
Felicia is a flawed character, but it’s because she’s flawed that she is interesting. She has a past. She made poor decisions. Poor decisions that she doesn’t want to share, not even with herself. It helps make her more believable and adds another layer to this already complex story.
Author Lenore Appelhans has done a great job creating tension through personal fears and doubts. While this book may be plugged as a science-fiction or mystical read, the study of one’s own heart is the true center of “Level 2.”
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