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It's been a full twenty-four hours since I listened to Level Me Up because I wanted to take some time to gather my thoughts before writing this review. Let me say that it's never easy to type out on my keyboard how a book, regardless of its format, failed to click with me. Unfortunately, that's where I find myself with this first in Lauren Helms's Gamer Boy series. I've read and listened to quite a few romances wherein one or both of the main characters happen to be involved in the gaming world. Now, one doesn't have to be a gamer to have an appreciation for gaming as a whole or the individuals who immerse themselves in it. I'm not a gamer, but I get the fascination people have for it and why there are so many who get so into it. I even know a few of them personally.
Helms's story had potential. If it didn't, I wouldn't have bothered to spend almost six hours listening to it. But this was a case of potential not being full met. Main characters Morgan Lawson and Dex Roberts were okay, although the latter had far more charm to him than the former, but I didn't feel as much chemistry as I would have wanted between these two. And goodness, there's only so much insecurity I can take from a female main character, especially since the guy who loved her wasn't giving her any reason to doubt him. I honestly didn't even get why they clicked as much as they were supposed to have clicked. I also felt as if I was waiting for something to happen story-wise, but it was like a weighted pause that led to not much after all. As far as the narration is concerned, I Lacey Gilleran, who is a new-to-me narrator, was good enough. All things considered, Level Me Up gets three stars. ♥
Rating: 3.5 stars
I have found my niche: gamer romances. I'm a gamer myself (though not of FPS... first person shooters), and the Boyf loves his DOTA2. I'm only just discovering that there's a whole subgenre of geeky new adult and adult contemporary romance. And this even fits the sports romance theme this month, as esports is a legit thing! (It brought in $1.5b in revenue in 2017, and The International 2017 winners won $10,862,683. That's the biggest DOTA2 major, and yes, I watched some of the games with the Boyf.)
Everything started out really great. I started listening on my way to a convention – RARE18 London, a huge romance event in fact. I thought it was fitting when the book starts at ComicCon (and I am actually going to the London Film & Comic Con with my boyfriend in July). Bookish Morgan tags along with her friend to SDCC, where she meets Dex, a professional gamer. They cross paths a few times, an adorable connection clear from the start. It made me all giddy, as gamers and readers are good matches (and I would know).
They learn they both live in Chicago, so everything keeps going well. But Morgan is really insecure, and the regular travelling that Dex has to do for his job puts a strain on the relationship. Yes, ok, Morgan did take it quite hard, and some might find it annoying. I, however, found it relatable. I don't care what age someone is; if you've never been in a long-term relationship before, or if you've had previous experiences that affect your ability to trust people...well, you're going to have some teething problems. Plus, at the start of a relationship, when you're still developing a bond, it's normal to be working out your feelings and your dynamic together. So while I was shaking my head sometimes at Morgan, I could also empathise. She's a work-in-progress, as are all of us.
And you know what? Dex was a sweetheart about it all. He really cared about Morgan, and while other men might have found some of her behaviours a bit intense, he understood where she was coming from. Different people have different needs, and that's ok; it's all about meeting your match, and that's what Morgan and Dex found.
This was more of a sweet romance, a lot more innocent than new adult romances typically are. While there was some sizzle, it was all fairly tame and centred around feelings of love, understanding, and belonging, as well as being brave enough to fight for love when things aren't honeymoon perfect.
The end was unexpected and dramatic, but it tied up nicely. Plus, groundwork was definitely being laid for more books in the series, and I must admit I'm curious. Bring on the gamers!
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.