At the beginning of Level 2, I was a bit confused, as, indeed, you're supposed to be. You join Felicia in this weird afterlife; that's about all I knew going into it, and Felicia doesn't know any more than you do. In Level 2's version of the afterlife, you hang out in a room full of pods, spending most of your time watching the afterlife equivalent of YouTube (YouDead? lol), only you're watching your memories, pulled from your mind in high definition and with better detail than you could have done on your own. I totally wrote short story like this in college, though clearly not so detailed, and I loved seeing the idea really fleshed out. Not only can they watch all of their own memories, but they can share them with others, earning currency to buy new memories when people purchase theirs.
Why would you want to watch someone else's memories? To stave off boredom, of course! One small theme running through Level 2 which I really appreciated was the Fahrenheit 451 aspect to the printed word. In the afterlife, books only exist if someone read them closely enough that every word appears in someone's memory. Otherwise, it's gone. That is just so powerful. You'll all be glad to know that I've got Level 2 tucked away in my brain, so we're good. Also, bloggers would have so much currency in the afterlife, since we read so many things!
Of course, there are also MORE things going on, like I promised. I'm not going to go into great detail about the rest of the world building, because I think it's something best left for you to find. I will just mention that there's some awesome stuff that one can do with mind power. Also, Lenore has a wholly new take on angels. I, for one, am always skeptical of angels, because RELIGION, but no worries my agnostic and atheist friends, there's no preaching, I promise.
Felicia, our main character, is not the most likable heroine you will ever meet. I suspect some readers will have difficulties connecting with her. Partly, this is caused by what spending so long constantly replaying just one's best memories will do to someone. She's definitely not a perfect person by any means. She has made serious mistakes with painful consequences, mostly involving an unfortunate attraction to the not-so-trustworthy Julian. She's also one of those people who, if you tell them to stay in the car, will never EVER stay in the car.
Though there were some things I didn't like about Felicia, she worked for me as a heroine. Felicia has spunk and sarcasm, and she's not overly trusting. She does complain, but as soon as she finishes doing that, she throws herself bodily into a task. I don't begrudge someone a 'man, this sucks,' so long as they then do what they can, and she always does. In fact, my one complaint about the pacing of the novel is that Felicia seems to come by her defensive skills too quickly and easily. In this case, I would have liked a training montage or some way to mark time passing.
In addition to Felicia, we have two other super important people I must talk about: Neil and Julian. Yes, there's a love triangle. I know, I know. It's okay, though. This love triangle is made more interesting by the fact that we have a juxtaposition between past and present, and the fact that only Julian is actually present. Though I initially hated Julian, who is definitely too cocky and bad boy-ish for my usual tastes, I'm currently in his team, because he's complex and interesting. I want to know more about him. Neil is too perfect, too high school love, too religious, to hold much appeal for me, BUT I have yet to meet him except in Felicia's favorite memories of him. At this juncture, it's in no way clear which competitor will win fair Felicia's heart, which always helps in a love triangle.
So far as the dystopian stuff goes, Level 2 is not the most dystopian novel ever, but there's obviously some creepy stuff happening because of...whoever's in charge. There will be more dystopian goodness (errr...badness) in the coming books, I am sure.
Lenore Appelhans' Level 2 is a thought provoking read that will put you into an entirely new world. The images will stick in your brain long after you finish. In fact, rewriting this review just before it's meant to publish (since I managed to accidentally delete the original, because I'm an idiot), I find myself wishing I had time to reread Level 2, so that I could catch plot threads that I missed on my first read. I will definitely need to reread before reading the next book. You definitely don't want to miss out on Level 2.