XVI Paperback – Jan 6 2011
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About the Author
Julia Karr lives in Seymour, Indiana.
Top Customer Reviews
Source: ARC from Publisher
Category: Young Adult Fiction
Nina is a distraught fifteen year-old, living in the year 2150. She's about to turn sixteen, and be branded with a tattoo on her wrist. 'XVI,' a government ordered tattoo will identify her age, and signify that she is officially sexually mature. A few vaccinations to fight STD's and these girls are let loose. Her best friend is elated, and Nina is intimidated-to say the least. Nina's mother Ginnie has instilled her to never buy into the government hype. She instructs Nina to 'think outside of the box.' The government is listening at all times. The media, a mere tool to use for its own propaganda. When life seems like it couldn't get any worst, it does. Ginnie, Nina's mother is brutally murdered. The government kept her alive just long enough to tell her daughters goodbye. The machine was shut down, and Nina is filled with questions. Coming from a lower tier (class) these machines are not normally used, reserved for higher tiered citizens. Why did the government allow her mother to say godbye? Nina is concerned about who killed her mother, but investigations are not a priority for lower tiered people. In the few minutes she had left, Ginnie asked Nina to take care of her younger sister, and get Sandy's baby book to Nina's father. Nina's father was thought to have been dead since the day Nina was born. Nina is confused, frustrated and shocked. Nina's world is turned upside down, and she endures. She is uprooted to her loving grandparents house, and is the rock for her younger sister. Can her father really be alive?Read more ›
Nina Oberon is fifteen, soon to be sixteen. In her world sixteen year olds or "sex-teens" have no rights. They are basically expected to have sex with whomever. One of the problems I had with this book is that the author didn't do a lot of background world building. The End-Of-Wars was mentioned frequently, but what were they? How did this sex-teen world come to be? The concept of the world is interesting, but it wasn't explained very well.
Girls don't have choices in this world. Women's reproductive rights are no existent. If a girl gets pregnant before she is sixteen she is forced to have an abortion and if she is sixteen, she doesn't get to decide, only the guy's opinion matters. Throughout the novel girls were either deemed virginal if they dressed conservatively or whores and deserved what they got if they dressed provocatively. There was a lot of unanswered questions I had by the time I finish the book. Hopefully, they will be answered in the next book, but I honestly don't think I will be continuing with this series.
Over the last little but I had read a number of dystopians and as such I have found myself becoming somewhat burnt out with them- It seems like they essentially all follow the same storyline: a young girl is on the brink of adulthood, a time in which the society that she lives in initiates her in some way by imposing something upon her (whether it be a tattoo, a medical procedure, etc.), when she begins to notice that her seemingly perfect life and government aren't all they're cracked up to be, that they are hiding something about the initiation process and what occurs afterwards from its people. Her suspicions are confirmed when she meets the male lead of the story who is extremely knowledgeable about their corrupt government and society (as he is a member of the opposition) and who soon becomes her love interest. As her and her love interest delve deeper into exposing the corruption that runs deep in their government they find themselves in more and more danger. And though I did feel that this story did follow this storyline almost to a tee, I didn't find myself thinking to myself, "Oh gosh- another one!", mainly because, unlike in many of the other books of this nature, Julia actually provides with the reader with answers about what is occurring in the plot (as opposed to just talking around answers or giving the reader even more questions- which is just so gosh darn frustrating) and she writes extremely likeable characters- especially the secondary characters (which in many cases I find to be completely unnecessary as they rarely fuel the plot line).Read more ›
The media portrays being sixteen as very fun, glamorous, liberating and a symbol that the girls are grown up. Nina's mom has always taught her to think for herself and to question things so Nina's never bought into the media hype over it. Her best friend Sandy on the other hand is all about "sex-teen", "XVI Ways" and cannot wait for the day to come. I did find her annoying in that she's is naïve, has a big mouth, and believes everything that the media tells her...but what happened to her in the end was sad and something I didn't think she deserved.
Nina ends up uncovering a lot about her family that she never knew about. Her mother, when she was still alive had a lot more going on than Nina realized and has done her best to keep Nina in the dark about government secrets and out of danger. I'm not sure if this is a part of a series...I hope it is just because we're left with an open ending and there's still a lot of things that are left unresolved.
Overall, a intense and powerful dystopian read in the best of ways. Its really a book that stays with you after you've read it and makes you step back think of the parallels of society today.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
XVI is one of those books that stick with you. Not just because it is a well-executed and thought-provoking dystopian, but because it has so many components that lend to its greatness. Nina, the MC and a 15 year old girl who is terrified to age that one year and become a `sex-teen,' is strong, but fragile at the same time; she's far too grown up for her years, but still just a child. Her life is dictated by the world around her - which isn't a great one.
Julia Karr has created a Chicago of 2150 that is eerily reminiscent of the world of 1984 (one of my favorite books of all time) and she constantly reminds the reader just how much control the government has over its inhabitants. The technology is believable, at times it's incredible and I wish I could experience it, but other times it just shows how much the government interferes in everyday life.
Nina, her sister Dee, her grandparents, and all of her friends truly have very little control over their own lives. The tier system is very much the same as a caste system and with little hope of moving up in tiers, the girls who turn sixteen sign themselves up to literally become sex slaves, only they believe they're signing up for a better life, just with a few strings attached. Even Nina's best friend, Sandy, is convinced that joining the FeLS (Female Liaison Specialist) is the perfect way to move up in life.
Karr throws Nina into the world of The Resistance and forces her to question all she has ever known, while introducing her to the mysterious Sal too. Nina's only hope at escaping a life of forced sex and possible death, is in the whispered words of a dying woman. Those words drive Nina to become a stronger person, with an unbreakable determination.
At times an emotional thriller, XVI touches on many aspects of the society that we live in and pushes the limits on what could be. Tense, horrifying to imagine, but impossible to put down - I was enthralled in this future world, the technology, and the characters. All the characters are developed and no one felt flat to me. My only complaint is that the ending is rushed. I would have liked to see all of Nina's struggling and worrying pay off in a more fleshed out way, instead of the quick wrap-up. But still, this is a dystopian that cannot be missed.
Opening line: "Nina, look." Sandy jabbed me in the ribs. ~ pg. 12
Favorite lines: I'd choked back so many tears, they'd become a lake of sadness in my belly. ~ pg. 36
And this one:
"Personal sacrifice lies at the center of change for the better." ~ pg. 189
4.5 for sure
What no one seems to have mentioned is the awful messages that this book perpetrates. Nina's best friend, Sandy, buys into the idea of being a sex-teen (an overly sexualized, vapid sixteen year old who's only motivations in life revolve around boys). And we're supposed to sympathize with Nina on how much she wants to help Sandy out, but just can't seem to get Sandy onboard with her concerns.
I really wanted to sympathize. I did. Except that was kind of hard when Nina refused to actually TALK to Sandy about her problems. Nina finds out that her friend essentially wants to sell herself into sex slavery. Instead of sitting down with Sandy and having a conversation about it, Nina decides on her own that Sandy is too stupid to actually understand. This occurs two seconds after Nina is outlining how Sandy isn't very smart, but can be perceptive. What?
The idea that all men are basically dogs who can't control themselves was unnerving, but necessary to the premise of the story. I get that. The idea that women have no control over their own destinies? That I wasn't so on board with. The only women who had any backbone at all in this novel were those that were fortunate enough to be educated. It's a nice thought, and yes, education is important. But the idea that those girls who haven't been fortunate enough to receive the kind of learning that Nina, Wei, or Mrs. Oberon had are just too stupid to actually understand that being taken advantage of is bad? No. Nor did I like the idea that if you wear revealing clothes, you're obviously an idiot who's asking for what they get. This idea is prevalent in rape culture, and while Miss Karr made it evident that Nina 'disapproved' of how men acted when faced with a pretty girl, it was obvious that she agreed with the sentiment that the pretty girl was asking for it. The amount of slut shaming that went on in this book was simply horrifying.
I've read some reviews on other sites that dismiss Julia Karr's ideals and basically brand her as anti-woman. I don't agree- I really think that she was aiming to send a message about empowered women rising above everything. I think she wasn't TRYING to sound like an abstinence teacher, but just wanted to demonstrate that teens should be in charge of their own sexuality, when they feel like they're read.
Sadly, the message she got across was completely the opposite. Most of the mentions of sex seemed like they existed solely for shock value, and every time Nina even considered her own sexuality it was surrounded by a wellspring of guilt and horror. The only women who had even a moment to be empowered in the novel were those that had the kind of money and status that would allow them access to a decent education, and even then- they all pretty much needed the protection of the big, strong men.
I won't spoil the ending of this book, but it was so awful that it made me want to throw this book against a wall. I promptly read Beauty Queens by Libba Bray following it, which has all the messages that Julia Karr aimed for and missed about strong women. Miss Karr, you might want to check it out before you get started on your sequel. You might learn that no matter what your IQ, what you wear, or who you are inside or out, every girl is a real person who shouldn't have to ask forgiveness for existing.
Nina Oberon is about to turn sixteen. And in her world, this monumental occasion is about more than just a driver's license and more freedom on the dating field. So much more. At the ripe old age of sixteen, or "sexteen" as her world calls it, girls are essentially fair game for any and every boy/man/pervert that comes strolling by. Girls turn sixteen and get the infamous XVI tattoo on their wrist proclaiming their newly available status and Nina, for one, is scared. Most girls, like her hyper best friend Sandy, can't wait to achieve their new status in the world. Drunk on the wealth of male attention that will come their way and the promise of a whole new host of opportunities that will come their way, they anxiously look forward to the day they get their tattoo. Not so for Nina. Raised by her pragmatic, if romantically hapless single mother Ginnie, along with her younger sister Dee, Nina has grown up dreading what will happen when she reaches her sixteenth birthday. Her mother has trained her not to believe the rosy, inane images the media blithely shoves down young girls' throats and Nina is cautious to the point that when her longtime friend Derek begins to see her in a different light it triggers outright panic in Nina. Then her mother is brutally murdered in a back alley and, on her death bed, she reveals to Nina that her father isn't actually dead and that she must find him and keep her sister Dee safe.
Okay. Lots of potential, right? I liked the setup and I definitely liked Nina. She was strong from the start and it was a relief to read about a main character who doesn't spend the entire novel in the dark, floating around believing the garbage her society has set up as reality. However. Those were the only strong points in the book. The rest of the cast of characters felt disturbingly two-dimensional. They were good cut-outs (particularly Wei and Derek) and they could easily have developed into fully-fledged characters who I really admired and followed. But they stayed in the background, flat and chirpy, never fully inhabiting a spot on my radar. Even Nina's growing relationship with a mysterious, possibly homeless, boy named Sal never got its feet off the ground. I didn't buy Nina's too-sudden weak knees, given how adamant and self-possessed she was to begin with. And I really didn't buy Sal's too convenient interest in her, given what we learn about their interlocked past and his involvement with many things underground. There were no real reasons behind their association and I found myself fairly ambivalent toward them both. The treatment of underlying themes soon began to bother me as well. What could have been a compelling exploration of adolescent life in a terrifyingly misogynistic society quickly devolved into an oddly simplistic tale with very little to recommend it. Things moved too slowly and not far enough to provide a satisfying conclusion in which I could feel as though progress was made and character arcs developed. Rather the conclusion was anticlimactic and verging on the trite--so not in keeping with its edgy, loaded premise.
Most girls buy into the Media hype that turning sex-teen is "ultra." It's hard not to when the Media, from an early age, bombards them with the message that they want to be surrounded by boys who desire them and that having this tattoo equals freedom.
Most girls cannot wait for their tattoo to proudly display the fact that they are of legal age. Not Nina Oberon. Not only does she not want to be branded, she doesn't even want to have sex. And the idea of being marked does not make her feel even remotely close to free.
When Nina's mother is stabbed and left for dead, she questions whether the attack was random. And when she finds out that her mother has been keeping secrets, Nina is dead set on finding answers.
In a society where your every move is tracked, your conversations monitored and free thinking is not allowed, searching for answers can be risky, even deadly. And as Nina uncovers truths that her mother has kept hidden from her, will they put her in even more jeopardy?
XVI is author Julia Karr's debut novel of a dystopian society set in 2150. Although futuristic, it is not outlandish to think that with the natural progression of our current society that the vision of the future the author created is a very real possibility.
In XVI, government control has escalated, class systems or "tiers" have been set up as yet another form of regulation, the Media has gotten much more powerful and influential, freedom of thought is discouraged and girls are being treated as second-class citizens while athletes are treated like royalty. Very believable and all within the realm of possibility.
XVI is an engaging, effortless and often humorous read. There are a number of original ideas, but it is the characters in this story that distinguish it from other books in the genre.
The three female main characters have very diverse personalities that work well in this story - Sandy, the media-seduced, flighty sex-teen on one end of the spectrum, and Wei, strong, independent and free-spirited on the other, with Nina, our heroine, somewhere in between, creating the balance.
Nina's mother Ginnie, while not present for most of the story, has great presence throughout. We see her character through Nina's eyes as she looks for answers and in Nina herself as she has been raised to not take everything at face value and to think for herself.
Add in the rebellious Sal, Nina's lovable grandmother and her cantankerous grandfather, and you have a wonderful new set of characters to fall in love with.
This story does not end in a cliffhanger, but there are so very many questions left to be answered in the sequel.
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