Saturday, January 22, 2011

YA book review: XVI by Julia Karr

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Speak; Original edition (January 6, 2011)

Book summary: Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world-even the most predatory of men-that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past-one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer.

My review: In Karr's futuristic tale girls who turn 16 are called sex-teens. Their wrists are tattooed, they're given special STD shots and can easily have sex--with anyone. In this society, fueled by the Media's constant barrage of images and words, the citizens are supposedly 'free' and need only what they are told and sold. Nina, raised by a Media-savvy mother, Ginnie, is aware of what's going on but remains naive about most of it. Until Ginnie is murdered. Suddenly, as her sixteenth birthday approaches, Nina has to quickly grow up.

After moving in with her grandparents, she needs to keep a watchful eye on her younger stepsister, Dee, while honoring Ginnie's last wish to keep a special item safe. The father she thought was dead may be alive and it's up to Nina and her friends, including her boyfriend, Sal, to find out the truth, deliver the book to him and keep Nina alive and out of the clutches of Dee's revengeful father, Ed.

Wow, that's a lot to accomplish for anyone and our heroine, Nina, certainly does. The world of XVI is an utterly scary one, especially for females with the government's brainwashing of the young. The individuals who dare to speak up and criticize the propaganda disappear. Nina grew up believing her father died in an accident, but after secrets are revealed, she knows she needs the truth. Except there are some who don't want her to be successful and violence is always a viable option.

XVI was certainly an interesting dystopian novel, tackling the media and its promotion of
promiscuity, with a government spinning commercialism for its own use against its citizens where the sex trade of young girls is legal. It took me a while to get into the story but when I did I'll admit I was engrossed. Karr's pacing towards the end had my eyes flying across lines, eating up the visual words like candy. If vampires and angels were the hit trend, dystopian has to be the IT genre right now and it is titles like XVI which make it so desirable. Well written, with a cast of likable characters, believable friendships, a budding romance, XVI is also thought provoking. The subject matter addressed in this book will linger with you long after the story itself has ended. 

My rating:+++1/2

Favorite excerpt: (From pages 306-307, ARC)
"Not daring to turn my PAV light on, I stumbled around the room, tripping over several things. Somehow managing to keep my balance, I fumbled around and grabbed a metal pipe from the floor and ran to one of the counters. Scrambling up on top of it, I tried to reach a window. If I could break one, I could scream for help or climb out. No sooner had I stood up than the countertop gave way beneath me and I tumbled to the floor. I heard the doorknob rattle. I stood stock-still, not even daring to breathe.

"I know you're in there, Nina."

My heart was going to beat right out of my chest. The table scraped along the floor as the door slowly opened. Ed was getting in.

"Dead zone, isn't it? How nice--no one will ever know we're here. Maybe you and I can have some fun."

Cover comment: Considering the futuristic/dystopian genre this cover pretty much sums up what Nina has to deal with when she turns 16. I like how the Roman numerals used in the tattoo are so prominent on the cover, looking like bars across her face.

Book source: 1 ARC tours and Around the World tours


  1. I just bought this book and I started it while my 6 year old cousin was sitting through story time. But I have to wait a while till I can start reading it again because I have tons of library books to read so sad. I thought it was pretty good though!

  2. So many books and so little time. We hear you 25kati!