REVIEW: The Two Levels

BOOK: The Two Levels cover74159-medium
AUTHOR: Jonathan R. Miller
PAGES: 295
PUBLISHER: Smith Publicity
MY RATING: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)

When a possible outbreak leads to the quarantine of an urban shopping mall, its inhabitants quickly divide themselves into two opposing camps.

One on the first level. One on the second.

As each group scrambles to gather resources to ensure its own safety and comfort, seven-year-old Jasmine — a mixed-race girl — finds herself trapped in an unfamiliar place in every sense of the word, searching for allies in a conflict she doesn’t fully understand. With her mother injured and without a safe haven to call her own, Jasmine is forced to navigate the two levels alone until outside help arrives.

The Two Levels tells the story of an ordinary girl demonstrating extraordinary courage in the face of nearly impossible odds. Touching on issues such as police overreach, the Ebola crisis, the complexities of identity, the consequences of privilege, and more, The Two Levels is a taut thriller with a moving human component, a richly-layered tale of the often solitary struggle to carve out a place in the world.

I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When Jasmine and her her parents are heading home from their trip to South Africa, they never expect to have to make a pit stop in Sierra Leone. After the unexpected delay, they finally board their flight with some new passengers, and head home to the United States. As they wait to pass through customs chaos breaks out and the passengers head on a wild chase through the airport, across the tarmac, and to a shopping mall across the street. Separated from her father, Jasmine and her mother look for safety within the walls of the mall.

The Two Levels is an interesting story that touches on many sensitive issues, all told through the point of view of 7 year old Jasmine. Though the story itself kept me engaged, I can’t decide whether writing through Jasmine’s eyes felt like the right choice to me. At times I grew quite annoyed with her character in how whiny she could be, and while I suppose it worked to add in more tension to the situation, and it wasn’t out of character for a seven year old, it was just hard for me to read. I also felt conflicted when their were times when she could not seemingly grasp simple concepts, yet other times she had words or ideas she voiced that seemed out of her education level. It just felt a little inconsistent at times.

“‘White, light-skin, high-yellow, whatever word you use. Call yourself how you want in your mind. But when the world see you on the news screen, they see you white. And that’s what we need them to see on the second level right now. White.’
‘But why?’
Mr.Emmanuel shrugs. ‘Because then they understand that humans are involved.’”

The Two Levels brings light to a lot of heavier issues, the biggest one being race. While Jasmine is biracial, her skin color is, for the most part, lighter toned. While the predominantly white group of people on the first floor see her as being darker skinned, the Africans on the second floor see her as being white. Not only does this get you thinking about the racial issues in our current society, but it also creates a conflict where Jasmine does not fit in anywhere in this world where her mother is encouraging to embrace her African roots.

The last thing I wanted to touch on was the ending. I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed. It felt like things were left too wide open, and there wasn’t really any closure. I felt like the story could’ve used a couple more chapters, and actually looking at some of the other reviews I see I am not alone on this. There wasn’t really a resolution or explanation for anything and I felt like I was waiting for answers through the whole story, so I was expecting them at the end.

Overall, the story isn’t bad. It was certainly something that was different to me and unlike other stories I’ve read in the past. So that was refreshing. While I don’t feel that it’s something I’d ever re-read, I certainly don’t feel disappointed in my choice to pick it up!


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