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. (Publisher’s summary)
Felicia is particularly addicted to reliving memories about the love of her life, Neil. She recalls their budding romance, beginning with spotting Neil at her grandmother’s church. A gifted musician, Neil is not only the worship leader, but he’s also the unquestionable leader of its youth group — so much so that when Neil and Felicia begin their relationship, his friends and ministers are extremely concerned. They worry about his dating a “wild” girl with a questionable unchurched past. We actually found this aspect of the story a welcome change. We wish more authors would realize that it’s not always the guy who has secrets or issues or adolescent skeletons in the closet.
Most YA novels tend to feature an inexperienced and bookish girl who sees the “good” beneath the hardened exterior of an edgy boy from the wrong side of the tracks. That’s definitely not the case with Felicia — who has a dark secret that’s slowly revealed throughout the books, thanks to the memory file — and faithful and pure Neil, who’s so good he leaves the door open when they’re alone in his room together. We wanted to highlight a few of our favorite YA books where a worldly (by comparison, at least) girl becomes involved with a sweet and innocent guy.
“What Happened to Goodbye” by Sarah Dessen: By the time Mclean Elizabeth Sweet moves to Lakeview with her father, she has lived in several places since her parents divorce. Not only has she moved a lot, but in each place she takes on a new persona and uses a different name in each town such as Eliza, Lizbet, or Beth. Mclean is tough and smart and so, when she and Dave become friends, it is worrisome to his circle of friends. Dave is the local genius “nerd.” His parents are overprotective and strict, so Dave hasn’t had the opportunity to live a “normal” teenage life. He is not very “street” smart and thus there are worries about their relationship. No one wants Dave to be hurt by Mclean. –Diana
“Faking Faith” by Josie Bloss: After becoming a social pariah at her school and in her community, Dylan Mahoney inadvertently stumbles upon the blogs of home-schooled, fundamentalist, Christian girls. Dylan pretends that she is also part of the same Christian circles and befriends Abigail, a girl from one of the blogs. When she is invited to visit Abigail, Dylan must continue to live out her lie and keep the fact that she is very “worldly” a secret. This becomes harder as her friendship with Abigail grows closer. It becomes even more complicated as she starts falling for Abigail’s brother Asher. Asher is very sheltered since his upbringing is almost like that of the Amish. As a result, he is very unsure of how to handle his feelings for Dylan. –Diana
“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins: Before you start scratching your heads, think about Katniss and Peeta. By her own admission, she’s the fire and rage and he’s the dandelion in spring. She’s jaded and guarded, while he’s open and optimistic. If you saw the “SNL” sketch with Jennifer Lawrence last week, it’s clear even movie audiences find him too soft. She, on the other hand, is as tough as nails. I loved that about the two of them, because Katniss doesn’t think love is possible, even before she experiences it. But even when he’s not himself, there’s always that glimmer of hope that he’ll be there for Katniss, always. –Sandie
What are some other great examples where the girl is the edgy character and the guy is the “good boy”?
If “Level 2” sounds like a book you’d enjoy, don’t forget to check out the features from my fellow Selective Collective members — especially the giveaway and author interview, where you can read more about Lenore and enter for a chance to win the book!