Series: The Leveller, Book 1
Author: Julia Durango
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Action-Adventure
Told: First Person Singular (Nixy), Present Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (some language, violence, scary situations, phobias, innuendo)
Format Read: ARC (won - thank you, Brittany!)
Find On: Goodreads
Purchase On: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
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?
* * *
In a Sentence: A short and stellar action-adventure for gamer and non-gamer alike!
Confession Time: I've never played a video game. My parents encouraged reading instead, and by the time I was old enough to purchase them myself I decided I'd rather spend my money and time on books (parental brainwashing = complete). The closest I can claim to ever playing one is an old Mother Goose computer game at daycare (which I rocked at), and maybe a few deaths on a friend's Super Mario Bros once. All that said though, the concept of video games fascinates me, so when I found out about this story I was super-excited to read it!
Writing/Story: Coming in at just over 250 pages, part of The Leveller's charm is how short it is. Because of it, the plot gets straight to the point so we can enjoy the thrills (and chills) of the virtual reality gaming world, the MEEP. The action was short and sweet, powering through levels and obstacles without a word wasted while the description effortlessly painted its pictures with just a few vivid sentences, the world easily visualized in my head.
Setting: Set mainly in virtual reality and centered around gamers, I was a little worried about not understanding all the lingo, but Julia made this book completely accessible to gamer and non-gamer alike. I may have missed out on a few inside jokes but didn't notice, and I really enjoyed learning more about gaming and the culture.
I did have a slight problem with the real world, however. As far as I'm aware, we are still far from the ease of virtual reality that is shown in The Leveller. Never a worry with futuristic fiction, but while the MEEP resided leaps and bounds from current technology, the rest of Leveller's world did not. I noted no other advances - to the tech or anything else - and in fact the general vibe of the story (while really fun) seemed more retro than the few decades into the future that I assumed this was set in. I wasn't expecting drastic changes, but a few more other than the MEEP would've been completely plausible. We spent little time in the real world though, so I was able to overlook it for the most part.
Favorite Bit: The language cheat. In tense and seemingly unfair situations, swearing is bound to happen, but instead of subjecting readers to the usual words the author gave Nixy a proclivity for foreign swear words. She didn't abuse them though, which made me enjoy them even more.
Conclusion: A thrilling and chilling read that I recommend for anyone who enjoys a quick action-adventure virtual reality story! Really looking forward to the sequel!
For Fans Of: video games