This review is also posted at The Bawdy Book BlogWhat happens when we die? Some think we move on to the next level, others think we return to the earth at our feet. In Lenore Appelhans’ LEVEL 2 (soon-to-be retitled The Memory of After in its paperback release), we ascend to the next level, where we relive our memories in hi-tech memory pods until we then move on to what comes after, er, LEVEL 2. Level 3, perhaps? The next level is a giant unknown.Appelhans explores deep thoughts in LEVEL 2: death, betrayal, and strangely, addiction in a really weird and off-beat way. And she does it all within a world of imagining unlike any other. You see, Felicia’s dead. She exists in LEVEL 2 where souls cannot move on (think Purgatory) until they are able, and live in a hive-like world, where memories are like a drug addiction and you can hashtag events from your life. For instance, if I were to hashtag this, it would be #LEVEL2, #books, #compulsivereading.Because I enjoyed LEVEL 2 so much! It had a Matrix-y feel, with the hive-like afterworld and technology, but at the same time, it was contemporary, too, when she was reliving her memories. It’s like she wrote two different books and mashed them together and they blended beautifully.It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book I felt like I had to read. I brought LEVEL 2 on the plane with me and finished the first half on my flight to Kansas City for RT and would have finished the second half on the way home but for a disturbing amount of turbulence (even for this girl, who enjoys a little turbulence), that it made me sick. But I digress. I’m the kind of person who gets motion sick while reading in moving things, but I was enjoying LEVEL 2 way too much to care for most of both flights.Appelhans’ characters are very real and reachable. Felicia is likable in the way that you feel sorry for her; she’s a diplomat’s daughter, so on one hand, she gets to jet-set, but on the other, she’s incredibly lonely and vulnerable in the way lonely people can be. She strives to make good decisions, but sometimes we need to make the bad ones too, in order to see what lays ahead of us.I also liked Julian. Hello bad boy! He is the kind of boy every girl dreams of taming, and yet only one will every be able to. I guess we can all dream, right? Julian was slick (sometimes too slick, I had a feeling about him) and he knew how to play girls’ fiddles, but that is everything I liked about him, afterall. He also felt very redeemable to me. The bad ones always do.Neil was not my favorite character. Good guys rarely are. There is something about them that is too sweet, too dandelion-y for my tastes, but maybe that’s just me. I’m the kind of chick that likes a little dark in my light, a realist to go with the positive, someone who is going to kick and bray right along with me when I get pissed. Neil would probably just stroke my arm and tell me “there, there.” No, Neil, no!I have conflicted feelings about Autumn. Sometimes she felt hit-or-miss with me, but she’s very important to the story, and she was the bad girl that everyone hates (which I sometimes did), but I felt sorry for her, too. She’s also a diplomat’s kid, so…you know, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. When I felt sorry for her, it was because I felt like she felt she was unloved, or needed attention because she was insecure.The Morati we don’t learn much about, other than what the rebels tell us (whom I also a little distrustful), until the end, but since there is a second book, I’m hoping we learn more there. When I did meet them, they felt sinister and yet at the same time…I didn’t entirely blame them for what they were trying to do.Some readers would complain that LEVEL 2 bounces around in the timeline. In level 2, everything happens in chronological order, but Felicia’s memories (level 1) are scattered, because she picks and chooses (and sometimes they are chosen for her) at her whimsy, depending on how she’s feeling. Therefore we slip into her memories at random, and in no order. But the order does serve the purpose of telling the story of Felicia, and getting to know her. The jumping around didn’t bother me at all, and actually, I found it easy to follow, because the memories began with the hashtags and had dates and titles.Appelhans builds her world well. She describes LEVEL 2 so much so that I can see it in my mind’s eye, and it looks straight out of a sci-fi movie to me. So, hey, Hollywood, if you pick this up, please don’t fuck it up for us. The drones, the chambers, the outfits the girls wore….not to mention, the super-sweet abilities that one develops when you overcome your addictions while in LEVEL 2.Some readers might be turned off by the religious aspects of LEVEL 2. It’s actually not very religious (as ridiculous as that sounds, since we’re talking about what exists between heaven and earth), and it is not a preachy novel in the slightest. This isn’t a “Believe in God or you’ll go to Hell” kind of novel; it’s simply exploring what happens to us when we die.I thoroughly enjoyed LEVEL 2 and found it hard to put down. I would definitely recommend this to YA/Sci-fi fans, and anyone looking for fresh, new content.