Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: The Leveller by Julia Durango

The Leveller

Author: Julia Durango
Release: June 23rd 2015
Genre: Science Fiction, YA
#1 in the Leveller duology
Sequel: Untitled (#2)


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. 


To be honest, a very underwhelming and very mediocre YA novel that seems to have some kind of unique plot going for it at first, but quickly falls under the romance spell like almost every other average YA book before it. Which, I mean, that's okay — if you're into that. I just really liked the premise of this book and thought it'd turn out a little different than it actually did. Scratch that, I thought it'd turn out a lot different than it did. 

You see, I am an avid video gamer; I love them and they're very dear to my heart. But this didn't really convey anything of what I'd hoped it would about gaming, basically, it was exclusively about a romance taking place in a virtual Sims-like game setting, and that was it. The whole blackmail, trapped in the game world thing seemed like a minor side plot so that the book could be sold as not only a simple contemporary. Basically, the plot line I was most excited for only served as a side dish, when I'd hoped it'd be the delicious gourmet main course.

The characters didn't really stand out, either, which was the ultimate signature signing the novel's doom in my eyes. They were the only potential thing that could have saved it, but they didn't. Or couldn't. They were very two-dimensional and way too try hard it seemed, especially the heroine Nixy was presented like this badass leading lady, but she never got a lot of backstory or a character arc and didn't really change a lot over the course of the novel. And neither did any of the other characters for that matter. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely worse characters out there, and I'll gladly throw a bone here and say that at least none of them annoyed the shit out of me, but they never solicited many emotions from me in the first place, either. They were just ... there and that was it. I got nothing from 'em. Zilch.

As for plot twists, none of them were truly surprising, either because they were so obviously foreshadowed (like the main villain), or because they weren't foreshadowed at all and thus, came so out of left field that I was pretty underwhelmed, too. The action scenes become repetitive quite quickly, and there aren't many to begin with. The writing was ... decent, I guess, but sometimes Durango just tried too hard, just like her characters, and it was ... awkward, because it simply showed how little Durango actually knows about gaming, or how little research she put into it. 
“We should probably conserve ammo as long as we can and limit ourselves to slice and strike weaponry.”
It's called either slice and dice, or hack and slash... and there were many more instances like these.

Not to mention that the originality of the concept is questionable, since a similar plot has already been explored in the movie Gamer, released back in 2009. It's a nice movie. Has Logan Lerman and Gerard Butler in it, I'd recommend watching that instead of reading this.

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