*I received a free copy of The Leveller from Harper Collins via Edelweiss. This has in no way influenced my voluntary review, which is honest and unbiased *The Leveller by Julia Durango
Series: The Leveller #1
Published by Harper Collins on 23 June 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Suspense, Young Adult
Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world. It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy’s latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance.
Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them.
But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn’t some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?
Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they’ve encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?
Gamers and action fans of all types will dive straight into the MEEP, thanks to Julia Durango’s cinematic storytelling. A touch of romance adds some heart to Nixy’s vivid, multidimensional journey through Wyn’s tricked-out virtual city, and constant twists keep readers flying through to the breathtaking end.
The Leveller is a little bit like Matrix for YA, but different… People are playing online games by leaving their body in a recliner, while they are having fun (at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be!) in the virtual world.
My The Leveller review:
The Leveller started off strong with Nixy in the virtual world to collect a teen to get him back home and conscious to his mother. Getting to know her, the family dynamics as well as her two best friends Chang and Moose helped building the story from the start. The game MEEP seemed to be quite innocent and fun when Nixy first went in to catch someone, but when the CEO of the MEEP company asked for her help to get his possibly suicidal son out and back to the real world, things were shaken up and the story moved in a different direction entirely.
While I enjoyed the story and especially Nixy as a character, I think a younger audience than me would love it. Also, since I’m not all that much into gaming, there were some things that just seemed strange to me, but that would definitely be awesome for readers who are also gamers. The virtual world Nixy entered was extremely complex and well done, and I’m pretty sure The Leveller would make for an amazing movie. There were different templates in the virtual MEEP, and Nixy had to fight her way through a very scary maze in order to even figure out where Wyn was.
There were some things that made my suspicious mind figure out the mysterious parts long before I should have, and that did take away some of the excitement for me, which is the main reason why I gave The Leveller three stars rather than four. I am very curious about where the story will go next, though, and I will be looking for the second installment when the time comes.
Written in present tense made the story feel immediate, and while most of it is written in first person, there are also a lot of dialogues and some third person perspectives to show how Nixy saw the other characters. A fast-paced and good written virtual world story, The Leveller was well done and left me quite satisfied as a reader.
Some of my favorite The Leveller quotes:
My ear trans begins the frequency code and a few seconds later I wake up in the Landing, the MEEP entry zone. A three-story virtual mall of glass and gold, the Landing sparkles like a shopaholic heaven, enticing faithful spenders into the fold. Filled with dozens of flashy boutiques, stores, and salons, here you can purchase character enhancements for your avatar, as well as costumes, weapons, tools… anything you might want or need for the world you’ve created.
I understand the temptation, I really do. But here’s what happens. You get used to looking like a million bucks in the MEEP, and then… BAM! Game over. You’re backslapped to reality and wake up with your same old blemishes, bedhead, and ratty sweatpants.
I don’t know how these feel-good templates even qualify as games, really, but at least they provide me with a steady income.
This book counts towards the COYER scavenger hunt item 71: Read a book that prominently includes gaming in some way (5 points)
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: