The Leveller

Oooh, this is a sassy, fun, quick read.  I actually wished it were longer because I think the ending needed a titch more resolution, but other than that, pure fun.

You know how when you have a really loathsome day, there's always something to turn to that's comforting and generally, quite mindless?  For some, it might be creating art, like knitting or painting.  For others, it might be reading or cooking.  Still others might plug into a video game and let the hours roll past, taking with them the memory of the day.  I rotate between all of the above, but I don't have a gaming console right now (that would require purchasing a television, and my apartment is really small, and I'm really cheap), so although I'd love to play the new-ish Alien game or Injustice or Destiny, I can't.

Nixy's parents are game developers.  Her mom writes dialogue and her dad creates whole new worlds for the world's most popular game: MEEP, or MeaParadisus.  Via an implant, gamers immerse themselves in a virtual reality of their own choosing ... only, sometimes people don't want to come back out.  That's where Nixy comes in.  She an ace at the game--after all, she has primo access thanks to her parents--and for a hundred bucks a pop, she'll get your lollygagging teens back out of the MEEP.  Her slogan is "Nixy Bauer, out in an hour."  And she delivers every.  Single.  Time.

Everything's business as usual--hauling jocks out of their bosom-augmented, hot pants wearing fantasies, fighting off armies with her best friends Moose and Chang, and lying about homework in order to get in some more MEEP time--until her Dad's boss, the BIG BOSS, calls her in.  Not for hacking, or doing some workarounds (hey, what's a genius girl to do?), but to rescue his son.  Diego Salvador's son Wyn entered a custom-built MEEP world and never woke up.  All of the codes and hacks (Awaken codes) to jolt a person out of the game and back into meatspace aren't working.  Teams sent in to find Wyn's consciousness in the MEEP-world returned with PTSD.  Nixy Bauer, home in an hour, has raw talent and guts and has shown herself to be more reliable than any of the programmers in Diego Salvador's employ.  Besides, what's the risk of sending in just one teen girl?  Desperate times, my friends.

Despite the slightly implausible setup, this is a roller coaster ride through phobias, VR, hacking, coding, weaponry, and espionage (I know, it's a lot to take in.  Just think popcorn movie and you'll be aces).  I love that Durango doesn't really make a big deal out of Nixy being a girl and a gamer--in fact, in this world, pretty much every one games, and Nixy happens to be really good at it and she also happens to be female.  Plus, if anyone questions her abilities as a girl, she shuts.  Them.  Down.  She also kicks major antagonist butt.

There is a sweet romance in the book (oh my God, did I just say that?  On the internet???  Who am I?  Has there been an invasion of the body snatchers???) that actually felt like two teens crushing on each other.  It certainly wasn't instalove, I'll give you that.  Wyn and Nix are both flawed, so you're not reading a pretty-pretty romance, either.  In their first meeting, she kicks him, calls him "Einstein" and "hotshot," and pretty much calls him a self-absorbed idiot.  True love!  But when they do get together, it's so darn cute I want to squeeze the romance's chubby little cheeks.

Yep, definitely have to take my temperature.

The only quibble I have is with the speed with which the ending rushes up on the reader.  It's like, "Wait, what?  That's it?  I need more!"  The motivations of the villains were a bit nebulous, but at that point, I was having so much fun I didn't really care that much.

I started this with pretty low expectations and ended up reading it almost straight through.  Wyn!  Er, win!

I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley.


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