The Leveller (The Leveller #1) by Julia Durango
Published Year: 2015
Genre: YA Science Fiction
"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?"
(General disclaimer: I dislike when the blurbs tell you too much information! It's like why bother reading? Just kidding. I always read it. Because I have to know all, and blurbs are just blurbs).
Nixy (short for Phoenix, badass name) is known as a "leveller" in the virtual reality that is the MEEP. Flashback to Ready Player One and comparatively, we can see that the MEEP isn't quite as high tech as the OASIS. Not that this is necessarily bad, but Nixy and the other characters are restricted by time limits and other pesky details. Personally, I mentally align this as a beta version of the OASIS. There's even one description of what the MEEP could be that just reads as a description of the OASIS to me.
Anyway, back to The Leveller -- Nixy is a "leveller" which is essentially MEEP slang for bounty hunter. Parents want their wayward kids back, and Nixy is willing to drag them home, for a price. And she's the best. Her skills land her the largest bounty she'll ever see -- Diego Salvador, billionaire inventor of the MEEP, wants his son back. Little does Nixy know what she's getting herself into when she signs on.
The plot moves pretty quickly, and I wasn't bored with unnecessary backstory. However, even though action-wise the TL is pretty quick, in terms of development and knowledge, I would rate it on the slow side. Nixy is spending a lot of time in her own mind (Ha, I'm so punny), but she's not really coming up with anything. We get a couple of twists thrown at us at the very end, but very little explanation or reasoning. And I just do not do well with this -- I must know the things! (Second book doesn't even have a title or a release date. Which means it'll be out in a week right?! La la la la I can't hear you!).
Character-wise, we don't have a lot to work with here, because most of the interactions are with MEEPLE (I 100% appreciate this pun JD!). Main character Nixy definitely undergoes some growth, but I would've appreciated a little more development in the character department. Overall, I liked her though, and definitely appreciated her sense of humor.
As I mentioned earlier, I would really like to know when book #2 is being released (written?) because there were some pretty glaring plot questions that JD left wide open and I must know. All in all, Nixy won me over and I very much enjoyed reading this book and would do desperate things to get my hands on book #2!
3 out of 5 stars.