Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Sometimes I wish I could just be like everyone else my age and not think at all." - Nina

 XVI – Julia Karr

325 pages

Genre:  YA; Dystopia

Summary:  Set approximately 100 years into the future, XVI is told from the perspective of a fifteen-year-old Nina Oberon, an average girl living in Chicago.  Nina has no desire to reach the age of sixteen because girls in this dystopian society are branded with an XVI tattoo on their wrists, and are expected to become sexually active at that time. While her worries are a stark contrast to her best friend, Sandy’s, feelings about reaching the age of “adulthood,” turning sixteen becomes just one of a series of issues that plague Nina’s life after somebody she loves is attacked.   Can she escape her fate, or is she doomed to live the life of a typical sixteen within the society?

Review:  While I thought the concept of XVI was rather interesting, for me, the execution mostly fell flat. 

I love a good dystopia, but there were way too many unanswered questions in this book that made it near impossible for me to suspend disbelief.  How did society get this way?  Why does everyone just go along with it?  From the way XVI ended, I have a feeling that there will be sequels, so perhaps these questions will be fleshed out a little bit more in the next books.  It was also kind of strange that, in some instances, the characters were discussing things that they had been acquainted with all of their lives, and therefore, shouldn’t really have had a need to discuss since it was already part of their collective experience. 

The one-dimensionality of the characters also really stood out to me.  The females, especially Wei and Ginnie, were definitely tough, but it was hard to really feel any sympathy for their plights because they all seemed rather generic.  In the same vein, the male characters didn’t seem to have any personality at all, and much like the females, it was quite hard to get to know them.  Additionally, Sal and Nina’s relationship seemed a bit contrived, and I really didn’t find myself caring about what happened with their romance at all.

Taking all of these factors into account, I actually did enjoy this book and read the whole thing in a few hours.  Yes, most of it was rather predictable, but that didn’t really detract from the fun I had reading it; in fact, I’ll probably continue with the series.  Ed was a great villain, and I spent the whole book wishing vengeance would finally come to him.  The technology and dead zones were also rather cool, and I loved that it enabled the characters to talk freely about what was going on around them.

If you enjoy dystopias, especially any of the ones listed below under “read-alikes,” XVI may be a book worth looking into.

Rating:  2.5/5

Read-alikes:  The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary E. Pearson, Feed – M.T. Anderson, Uglies trilogy – Scott Westerfeld, Matched – Ally Condie, 1984 – George Orwell


  1. Awww. I thought it was believable. I took it as one big take on what media does to women mixed with the child sex trade out East. I feel like it brought forward a lot of issues about woman and sex that happen in other areas of the world and put it here, where it is raw and not quite as expected. It was like Karr purposely wrote this to get American teens in other girl's shoes. And I think one of the major reasons people accepted this in the book was because most had no idea of the scope of what was happening. You can't me mad about what you don't know.

    I agree that a lot of the characters fell flat. And that the romance was definitely lacking something. Maybe she needs to read some more juicy YA romance scenes before book 2 comes out? And I totally found their discussions about their every day lives weird too. There needs to be a better way to execute the details than through their conversations. I can't wait to talk about the sequel with you when it comes out!

  2. I think part of my problem may have been that this book reminded me too much of things I've already read and really enjoyed (see the read-alikes...haha). It's hard to live up to that :) I love that this book brought forward the issues of the sex trade, however, and it did remind me very much of what happens in the East.

    The romance just seemed a bit too...Twilight-y or something? For me, things evolved much too quickly, and it didn't really seem all that natural.

    I really feel like this author has promise, though, and I look forward to reading the sequel, seeing how things develop, and discussing it with you, too!

  3. Have you read Divergent? I found a list of books that will "replace the Harry Potter and Twilight" books/movies and it was on the list. I'm not sure I've read a lot of dysoptias other than Anthem and that was in high school.

  4. I haven't, but my friend, Nori, just reviewed it, and it's definitely going on my list!