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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

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Review: The Leveller by Julia Durango (Cuz I'm All About that Name, About that Name, Nickname)

The Leveller by Julia Durango

The Leveller #1
Julia Durango
Publication Date: June 23, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reviewer: Sophia

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 really enjoyed The Leveller on two things: the concept and the writing. But of course, the concept is why I actually read many books. Whether it's good or bad, I have no clue until I actually crack open the book and actually read it.

In a virtual reality gaming world called MEEP, Nixy Bauer helps parents get their wayward kids back from spending too much time in the MEEP quickly and efficiently. Soon enough, she gets a job from the developer and founder of MEEP himself, whose only son has disappeared in the gaming world for several days, leaving behind a suicide note and world filled with horrifying challenges.

I will fully admit I'm a huge fan of technology and cool gadgets, and I honestly loved the technology The Leveller uses. It's quite similar to Grid Seekers, but in a gaming direction rather than an everyday-use direction. Durango explains MEEP simply and straightforward: it's a virtual reality where players can create their own worlds with their minds. Like any game, there are little cheats and codes. Durango's explanation of how MEEP works isn't written in a complicated and really scientific way – helpful for all of us who haven't actually taken physics (or ever will/did).

I am, however, still confused. What is the Black, and what is levelling? I have an idea, but I think I want an official definition of what the Black is, and what levelling is. Especially on levelling, because if I formulate my own definition, I'm pretty sure I'll butcher it and Durango will facepalm.

Her writing is also quite entertaining – it's fun, but it has puns in there that are sometimes so bad (read: common), it's good. There's not really a dull moment in The Leveller. It's not completely action, action, action, but I just like Durango's writing (then again, nonstop action can totally backfire unless you have breathers. You'll have to be like Joseph Bruchac.).
But the names. I'm quite horrified. It might be as bad as making a sad effort of being creative by drawing out letters (except that one you could literally tell it was a sad effort).

What kind of name is MEEP? MeaParadisus isn't exactly complicated (though it's a mouthful), but while MEEP sounds all adorable, it just... doesn't sound like something you would name a virtual reality gaming world unless there's a really cute world. I'm expecting chibi people now.

Nixy. Why Nixy? Contrary to what Ella thinks (she thinks it's lizard-like), Nixy sounds like Trixie. What does Trixie sound like? A cute dog name that does cute tricks. Oh, and that dog had better be oozing in cuteness.
There are so many nicknames used here by Durango – I swear I need a notebook to keep track of who's who at this rate. I mean, there's Nixy, Moose, Chang, Mama Beti, etc. Since The Leveller is the first in a series, there are bound to be more nicknames in the future as Durango introduces us to more characters. I'll have to keep track what's not a nickname, what's a nickname and who it belongs to, blah blah blah.

The ending was a bit of a downfall. It wouldn't be a downfall if I didn't read this in one day, but Durango throws in hints early on in the book that she uses in the end. Everything was going pretty well, but how the story plays out in the very end is predictable if you pay an ounce of attention. How the second book will play out, on the other hand, isn't too predictable yet. The Leveller ends on a solid note, so I'm looking forward to what Durango actually comes up with in the sequel.

3.5 Owls

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Sophia is the owner and founder of Bookwyrming Thoughts, but also found on various parts of the internet. She's a 19-year-old communications major who has weird humor and doesn't fit the Asian stereotype (maybe a little). Books, chocolate, technology, and music are among some of her favorite things. For more of her work, visit her personal website.