Book Review: The Leveller

The Leveller
By: Julia Durango
Published by: HarperCollins
Release date: June 23, 2015
Genre: YA science fiction
256 pages
Source: ARC kindly provided by publisher

One of my favorite things about blogging is finding new (or at least, new to YA) authors who I can talk up to all my bookish friends. Friends, today I'd like to introduce Julia Durango. I have a feeling we're going to be seeing a lot more from her, so jump right in and get in on this fandom from the beginning.

Durango makes her YA debut with The Leveller, a nice sci fi set in a world equipped with immersive virtual reality gaming. Participants go into an unresponsive state in the real world, while the game is transmitted directly to their brains. Gamers sign an agreement that they will be in the virtual gaming world, the MEEP, for no more than four hours in a given twenty-four hour period. When they break that agreement and are gone for longer periods of time, their parents often call in Nixy Bauer.

Nixy's know-how in the MEEP comes from being a regular beta tester for her parents, who both work for the company producing the game. She is the obvious go-to girl to retrieve Wyn Salvador, who apparently has gone to great lengths to avoid being found. Finding him is the most difficult task Nixy has ever taken on. Getting him back to reality just might do her in.

Nixy is a refreshing character: a girl whose best friends are gamer guys, whose parents are present and caring, and whose worth is based on her abilities rather than her beauty. She is the fighter who goes after the prize without worrying about whether she looks cute in her outfit. She is completely comfortable in her own skin- so much so that when she's in the MEEP, she forgoes the usual physical enhancements, preferring for her avatar to look like she does in real life.

The world Durango creates for this novel is unusually flexible, since most of the plot is set inside the game. This gives the author amazing latitude for creating interesting obstacles, landscape, and character interactions, of which she takes full advantage. One of my favorite details is how Nixy can spot a human player among all of the manufactured people who populate the game.

Hey Hollywood: this one would make an excellent film. I'd thank you to get on that.


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.


  1. I saw this floating around on Goodreads a while ago. It seems like such a unique plot. Although I haven't read it yet, I agree that it seems like it would make an amazing movie.

    1. Someone could have a lot of fun stretching their CGI wings with this, for sure- but the human elements would be what makes it popular.

  2. OOoh nice! I've been curious about this one for a long while. I was rejected for a review copy and now that it's nearly here, I can't wait for more reviews! This one sounds so intriguing! Love a good dystopian feeling novel. This one definitely has that scfi action adventure kind of thrill to it! Great review!

    1. Thanks! Yep, you're going to enjoy this one. :)

  3. This DOES sound like it'd make an awesome film! How is this the first I'm hearing of it?!

  4. I've been thinking of this one, but now I really want to read this!

  5. It's great to see a female main character in a book about gaming. Many of my students would like to read this, I'm sure!


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