Level 2 (Memory Chronicles)

Level 2 - Lenore Appelhans This was two books in one, and neither of them were good. The main problem is there was a disconnect between what this book wanted to be, and what it sold itself as. It was pitched to the reader as a sci-fi fantasy about a Matrix-like afterlife and a battle for Earth between rebels and evil-angels. Awesome! What it ended up being was a dull, introspective, contemporary novel about a girl sulking about how much her life sucks and how her boyfriend fixed it all for her. Um...awesome? I mean, if you want to write that story, that's fine. But when your book is supposed to be about evil angels, then that other stuff becomes, by default, extraneous fluff.Seriously, the evil-angels stuff was a footnote in this book. The majority of the novel was just the main character going into a machine that lets her relive memories, and that's how she told us the story of her life. That's it. This novel is like 75% flashbacks. Everything else? The plot about the afterlife and the angels and the world-taking-over? She doesn't figure any of that out. It just gets info-dumped to her in between her memory sessions. We don't even see the 'bad guys' until the last few pages, and the 'climax' is summarized for us in a few paragraphs. Plus, the pacing of it is all over the place. No one sleeps, so it's hard to tell how much time has passed, but things happen in starts and fits. She gets 'training' that consists of...um, some unknown amount of sleepless time, and involves her basically just trying this one thing a few times and being perfect at it. They say that the place is controlled by hacking, all Matrix-style, but there's no hacking going on. She imagines things really hard, and said things appear. That's fucking magic.Then there's the story that this book wanted to be, the story of Felicia's sad life and the horrible secret that plagued her. It's...really dull and boring. The basic gist? She was kind of a shitty friend, then in a moment of panic she did a really stupid thing, because...you know. Teenager. Freaked out. Bad decisions. And that's it. That's the whole story. She angsts endlessly about this one bad choice she made, talking about it like it's some horrible stain on her character, but it was just a moment of bad judgement when she was legitimately freaked out. Um...okay?Furthermore, there's no point to that story. Felicia is a really selfish, shitty person throughout both stories. It could be argued that such selfishness makes her deep and flawed and relatable. And yes. If the book had decided to go that way, it could have made her a real character. But there's no character arc for Felicia. She's horrible and selfish and causes problems...and then that's it. She never has to face her past actions. She never has to change or grow or admit fault. She never has to evaluate her life and come to any form of acceptance over it. Basically, we're told about a series of events that happened and then...that's it. Boom. End. No growth or development at all.And I'm just not on board with a selfish character if said selfish character carries right on being terrible and gets rewarded at the end with a boyfriend and heaven. Also, sex and religion are really weird in this book. I mean, we're in the literal afterlife, here. Dealing with literal angels, set to this task by the Abrahamic God. No one bats an eye at this. No one doubts it. No one has a moment of "holy shit, so all that bible stuff was real?" It feels like the author just assumes all her readers believe the same thing she does. Then there's also a bizarre scene where Felicia, knowing that her boyfriend doesn't want to have sex before marriage, decides that she has to take all her clothes off and climb into bed with him. It's all well and good to have a sex-positive message in your book, but not if it comes at the expense of ignoring or devaluing other people's sexual decisions. If someone says they want to wait, that should be respected, too.