Series: The Memory Chronicles #1
Hardcover: 288 Pages
Publication: January 15, 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
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, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.
I appreciate the way Felicia's memories are inserted into the plot at choice locations to show readers what happened to Felicia during her life. I do wish that more about Julian is revealed when he appears to Felicia in Level 2 so that I could better understand her reluctance to trust him. Because it takes so long for Felicia's memories of Julian to be revealed, however, her mistrust of him seems unreasonable and unfounded. I do realize that she's right to not put all of her trust in him and his mysterious group; however, she doesn't give them much of a chance to prove their good faith. Even after I learned the truth about Julian, I still think that she overreacts a bit, as she's equally at fault for some of the consequences that come out of her prior relationship with him.
It was hard for me to relate to Felicia in general. This has to do with a lack of characterization and information. Felicia chooses to follow Julian out of her Hive, yet she doesn't give him some semblance of trust or at least some respect, and she tries to do things on her own despite her lack of knowledge of the world outside. I could understand her doing things on her own after she gets more experienced with the workings of Level 2 but not when she's still a rookie. I also couldn't understand her obsession with her boyfriend Neil, but that could just be me. Her boyfriend Neil seems like a great guy, but he's too perfect in her memories and noticably absent (though not by his own will) when the flawed Julian is there in the here and now looking after her.
This is a quick read, and I feel that too much is packed into too few pages. Level is such an interesting world with much potential for more exploration. For this reason, I wanted to see more of the world, take more time to see just what souls can do down in Level 2, and learn more about the characters. Things fell into place too easily. I wanted to see more of a challenge and more consequences for Felicia's rash decisions, so she can learn from them and grow more as a character. Despite being drawn into the rebellion by Julian and his comrades, Felicia never really gets to know them, never really trusts them. They're interesting folk, and I wanted to see more of them. Also, Felicia is absent at key moments of the rebellion, and the leaders keep important information from her, so I never got a good feel for what was going on as a whole. I really wanted to like this book, but it ended up falling flat for me.
* Felicia and Neil go to church, which is also where they meet, and many of her memories with him are connected to religion. Readers who don't particularly like books with religious themes may not be interested in this book.
An ARC was provided by Simon & Schuster for review.
Interview with Lenore Appelhans