Monday, July 20, 2015

Review: The Leveller by Julia Durango

The Leveller by Julia Durango
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: YA, sort of futuristic but not quite dystopian

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?

Wow!  I really was not expecting to love this book as much as I did.  I knew next to nothing about it when I was given a free copy in exchange for an honest review.  Let's just say that I was more than pleasantly surprised.

This has to be one of the most inventive things I've read in a while.  The idea of a society that has a virtual gaming world where the player can be an active participant in the game, mold it, shape it, customize it, and interact inside it, is an amazing concept.  Fans of gaming would LOVE this book... if they can get off their game controllers long enough to read it that is, because that's probably what they're doing right now.

But the story concept is so interesting.  People get sucked into XBOX and Playstation games as it is. They can spend hours at their tv with controllers in hand.  Why would this virtual reality world be any different.  So that's what the heroine, Nixy does... she pulls people out of the virtual game who have been in too long, usually at the request of the parents.  I can picture parents telling their kids to get off their Playstation all the time, so the idea that they would hire what's called a Leveller, like Nixy, to pull their child out of this interactive game, is not far-fetched at all.

I became a fan of Nixy from the moment she was introduced. She is smart, intuitive, and powerful inside that game. She knows exactly how to get in and what to do to pull her target out.  She's a master of the game and knows how to use it to her advantage...but this also means she has to be an amazing player herself in order to get herself through obstacles.  And she has to pull out all her tips and tricks to go after Wyn, who has been inside the game way too long and happens to be the son of the inventor.  In the process of tracking him down in the game world, we get to see those amazing skills, and I was just blown away by her.

I loved Wyn as soon as I met him too.  He's gentle, open, and sweet... in many ways a perfect foil for Nixy.  Their romance was slow-building and I loved it.  I don't want to say too much more or I might ruin something for anyone who hasn't read it.

The author did a fantastic job with world-building, describing the game to make you feel like you're there too, and with characterization.  I flew through this book because it just pulled me along so well. It was action packed and exciting.  I can't wait for the next installment!

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