Monday, June 8, 2015

Review: The Leveller by Julia Durango

Review: The Leveller by Julia Durango
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Series: Yes, #1 in The Leveller series
Release date: June 23rd, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 256 pages
Source: ARC from ALAMW15/eARC via Edelweiss
Rating: Fun! Quick, fast-paced, and highly entertaining.

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.

I'm pleased to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by The Leveller. That's not to say that I thought this book looked irretrievable terrible, or anything, just that it's a sad fact that Harper e-galleys don't alllllways pan out, quality-wise. But when I got a print ARC of The Leveller at ALA and saw  how slim a volume it is, I decided to slip it in between other reads, and I'm extremely glad I did. The ease of the writing and the pop of Nixy's voice let me fall right into the story. It's not the deepest story in the world, and to be honest, I think it could have used another hundred pages, but The Leveller is very quick, extremely readable, and pretty fun.

This is the second book I've read this month that deals with a fictional all-immersive virtual reality game (the first being Lois Lane: Fallout). The MEEP (which had a real name but they they call it this so often in the book that it's all I remember) basically sounds like the COOLEST THING EVER. It's this big, awesome virtual reality world where you can basically do or be ANYTHING, and pretty much everyone does it. The thing is, while you're playing, you're body is asleep and insensate in the real world. So parents hire our heroine, Nixy--short for Phoenix, which she fully acknowledges in the book is a hilariously terrible name--to go into the MEEP and extract their kids. Nix's two best friends are champion hackers, her parents work for MEEP, and she's got mad skills. She's the best in the biz.

Jessica Fletcher is displeased with this "virtual reality"

So when the MEEP CEO's son leaves behind a suicide note explaining that he's vanished into the MEEP, never to come out, Nixy is hired to retrieve him...after many, many professionals have tried and failed. So Nyx goes into retrieve Wyn, the kid (who is of course dreamy and all things a YA love interest should be), but things...don't go as planned. She starts to think that maybe Wyn isn't trying to run away and die after all. Maybe...somebody has TRAPPED him here. DUN DUN DUNNN.

The emotional beats of this book could have been deeper, but I REALLY enjoyed Wyn's character and her chemistry with Wyn. I loved the creativity of the MEEP and the richness of everyone's personal MEEP preferences and the worlds they can create. The action is awesome and fun and there are sharks and zombies and krakens and all kinds of caaraaazy things you can only get away with in a book about virtual reality. Nixy has to battle some truly terrifying things (THAT WITCH THING MY GOD). And the consequences of losing are no bueno.

And yes, I quite liked the ship, though a few things kept me from shipping it like BURNING.Namely, that the book doesn't go AS DEEP as it could. It's quite short and zippy, which meant it simply didn't get the chance to really make me FEEL. I felt, yes, but for instance, Nix's two best friends? I REALLY wanted to know more about them for spoiler reasons, because it would make me care about the plot sooooo much more. Durango made me care about Nix's parents quite a lot in a very short time, and I wished she'd pulled it off with Moose and Chang. I really liked Wyn even in the short space of the plot, so imagine how much I could have ADORED him given more page time.

It also definitely ends with things open-ended, plot-wise, so I'm assuming this is the start of a series. I hope so. Goodreads seems to think it is, so YAY.

But seriously, if you want something funny and fast and action and kissy, please check out The Leveller. It was the sort of book I kept wanting to go back to, and really there's nothing better than that. 


  1. Wow I have not heard anything about this book and it sounds really fun!! I'm also happy to read a shorter book every once in a while haha.

  2. Girl, I totally feel ya when you say that Harper e-galleys don't always work out - I was having that same thought myself when I was downloading all the titles. THE LEVELLER is so short though, so I'll probably give it a shot! Your review is the first I've read about this book, and I'm so happy to see that it was enjoyable, despite the fact that relationships could have been fleshed out a little better. I'm EXCITED to read about the ship!! Awesome review as always, Gillian!!

  3. Oooh, I hadn't heard much buzz about this book, but now I'm definitely thinking about looking into it! (I've been reading your reviews and it seems like I agree with just about ALL of the ones for books I've read? Yeah.) The premise sounds super cool, and of course I'm always up for action and kissing. Thanks for the informative review!

  4. I wanted to read this a long time ago, but haven't gotten the chance to, and now I want to read it again because it's called MEEP for crying out loud. That's literally my favorite "word" to say hahah. And the fact that it's a virtual reality that can be anything that you want it to be. Which sounds like somewhere I would want to be hahah. Awesome review Gillian!

  5. Where the hell did this one come from?? *pokes at book* How did I miss this??! This one sounds kinda awesome, and a perfect book for those of us who are suffering from Ready Player One hangover.

  6. I just read this book. It was really good. Loved it.


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