Level 2 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 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."- summary from Amazon
OK, just to get it out of the way, the author is a blogger friend of mine who I've hung out with on occasion. But I don't think I'm biased and will write a fair review.
Anyway, I did really enjoy this book and was so happy to get an early copy of it at BEA. I started it late one night while I was having a snack and had trouble putting it down, but I did because I needed to sleep. Appelhans did a wonderful job creating this afterlife world and everything it entails.
I will say though, that while I did enjoy reading Felicia's memories and thought it was an interesting way to flesh out her character (as well as Neil and Julian's), it did slow the story down a bit for me. I was always looking ahead to see when it would end and I'd get back to the action of taking down Level 2. I'm just too impatient! There were some excellent twists and turns as well, and I really liked seeing all the characters interact. I especially liked seeing how Felicia and Julian's relationship changed throughout the book as she accessed more memories of them together.
The climax is astounding and touching, and I also love that the book did not end on a cliffhanger. I read in an interview that Appelhans really fought for the book to end that way and I'm so glad it got approved. I'm still excited for the next book, Level 3, but it's not a dire what-will-happen-next kind of ordeal.
Definitely check this book out. It's an interesting, original debut and start of a series (or, well, a duology- I think there's only going to be two books).
FTC: Received ARC at BEA. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.