Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review: XVI by Julia Karr

Title: XVI
Author: Julia Karr
Series: XVI #1
Pages: 325
Publisher: Puffin/Speak
Format: Paperback
Genre: Dystopian
Source: Library

Some girls can't wait to be sixteen, to be legal. Nina is not one of them. Even though she has no choice in the matter, she knows that so long as her life continues as normal, everything will be okay. Then, with one brutal strike, Nina's normal is shattered; and she discovers that nothing that she believed about her life is true. But there's one boy who can help--and he just may hold the key to her past. But with the line between attraction and danger as thin as a whisper, one thing is for sure...For Nina, turning sixteen promises to be anything but sweet...

My Review:
Where oh where to begin...Well, I suppose we can start with why I decided to pick this book up in the first place... First of all, it starts with an X! I am trying to get all the tough letters out of the way early this year for the ABC challenge, so of course I picked up an X book. Second of all, you guys know how much I love Dystopian novels. They kick total booty when it comes to terrifying future worlds. I also had heard a lot of buzz earlier in 2011 about XVI and I remember that a lot of the hype was great. I remember a lot of people saying that it was "the next Hunger Games" and stuff like that. Well...I didn't really think so. Just because something is in a similar genre and has a similar feel doesn't make it "The Next __________". I wish people would stop comparing things to Harry Potter/The Hunger Games/Twilight etc, unless they really mean it. XVI was cool, but nowhere CLOSE to the earth-shattering greatness that is The Hunger Games.

The book starts off really great. The main character Nina does a great job getting you accustomed to her current predicament and the state of the world she lives in. A lot of Dystopian novels leave you confused to the time/location/etc of the world you just entered so it's hard to actually create that movie in your head. Despite having lavish descriptions or cold and calculating plot movements, some dystopians fail to ground you by leaving out key details that help you deal with this strange world. XVI tells you all the information you need to know without dragging it out or making unrealistic comparisons. I loved that the cities and towns were still recognizable, and by that I mean somewhat as they are today. Chicago is still gritty, beautiful, and windy. There's just more technology and a heck of a lot more social problems. I love that the technological advancements in this world were so realistic as well. There are logical jumps from where we are today, like cell phones, to where these characters are, like PAV's (Personal Audio/Video device) and nothing comes off as too unbelieveable...well...other than the XVI tattoos...

One of the main hooks of this book, or I should say the synopsis, is that girls are tattooed with an XVI on their wrists when they turn 16 so that the world will know they are legal. I say that is is a hook for the synopsis because I feel like the book wasn't so much about turning "sex-teen" as it was a struggle against the overbearing Governing Council. Sure there is a lot of talk about sex-teens and sex, and just growing up, but it sounds so much worse in the synopsis and on the book cover. On the front cover of my book it literally says "In the future, Innocence expires at XVI"...that sounds literally like 16 year olds are banded up and methodically raped or something. In the book, it's true that girls seem to have less rights than men, especially if they are sixteen, but it's far from the desolate and raw sex-topia that the cover and synopsis make it out to be.

And while we're on the topic, I feel like this XVI thing was one of the most unbelievable concepts of the book. The human race has been through so much to gain equality, I highly doubt that it would ever become an issue where girls were branded like cattle so that guys would know it's okay to have sex with them. It's true that Nina kept herself from sounding like a history lesson when describing the new world, but to be completely honest, I would have liked the history lesson. There's just not enough information to take me comfortable from today's (pretty-much) equal America to a world that justifies prostitution and rape. Where are all the crazy feminists? How does race fit in? WHY is it okay for XVIII's (eighteen year old boys) to have sex with XVI's even if the girl doesn't want to? Though the story and writing style were really excellent, there were just too many holes to keep me from being completely happy with how the sex and class thing was dealt with.

For the most part, the supporting characters were pretty strong. Sal makes a good love interest, but I really hated how Nina whined about how he could never want her and blah blah blah. I thought Nina's best friend Sandy was a really interesting character, and even though she was brainwashed into being slutty, I kind of admired her for being so in control of her sexuality so that she could better herself. oI did find myself really getting bored with Nina's whining about being a "sex-teen" while Sandy was so excited for it and I got really upset with the way Sandy was treated. It was just like the horror movies in the 70's and 80's where only the virginal girl-next-door lives while the girls who were sexually aware of themselves(also known as sluts and whores) were murdered. I felt like the book kind of undermines women's progress. Instead of making it okay for women to be sexual, this book takes us back to wanting to be virginal and chaste...Personally, I don't agree with that. I don't want girls to be forced to be sexual, but if they are in control of themselves and their own bodies then I don't see the problem with them grabbing the bull by the horns...or so to speak...To be honest, it would be interesting to see Ms. Karr's religious views and if they are the "purity ring" kind of views or if they are a little more modern...
I give XVI 3.5 Keys. It was a very good book with a very strong writing style and great characters. Nina was complicated and pretty smart, and (most of) the supporting characters held their own. I disagreed with the central premise of the book so I do think it was kind of a challenge for me to get through. The romance was very cliche and I practically shot myself in the face when Nina started on and on about how "a great and handsome guy like Sal could never like me"...*vomits*... but still, XVI was a pretty great dystopian novel and I will be reading the sequel...I just won't preorder it or anything.
XVI satisfies the requirements for quite a few challenges. I will be using it for:


  1. That was an excellent review. I had heard a few things about this book and wasn't sure I wanted to pick it up, but I'm intrigued now so I probably will.

  2. I don't quite like the cover.. =/

  3. I liked this book. It wasn't anything special. Hope Karr did a better job with the sequel.