The Compulsive Reader: XVI by Julia Karr

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

XVI by Julia Karr

Nina isn't like other teen girls, excited for their sixteenth birthdays and the mandatory tattoos they must receive, marking them as sexually mature to all the men of their dystopian world. Nina's mother Ginnie has always taught her daughters to be strong and to think for themselves, but that proves dangerous in their world, where the corrupt government controls the media and someone is always watching. When Ginnie is killed shortly before her birthday, Nina discovers that there is more to her past than she initially thought, and that her mother was directly linked to the heart of the underground rebellion. Now, with danger on every side, Nina has to make new friends, figure out who to trust, and try to carry out her mother's dying wish, which will lead her toward the father she thought was long-dead.

Julia Karr transports readers into an action-packed and dangerous world with XVI, similar to modern United States, but also very different. Set 140 years in the future, Karr's Chicago is bustling with activity and noise, a place where the government watches everything and everyone, but a rebellion simmers in random dead zones all over the city. This portrayal of the future is packed with details, from its own set of slang to descriptions of new technologies on both small and large scales. What is also very fascinating is the way that sexuality is portrayed, with the act of sex and gratification not only at the top of everyone's mind, but also the existence of acceptance for promiscuity, with federally funded pamphlets on how to flirt and date. It is believable that this is the direction in which we are heading as a society, but to read about it in full force is frightening. It is the source of much worry and consternation for Nina as she is determined not to become a "sex-teen", but yet can't deny her growing attraction for rebel Sal. Karr imparts a strong, positive message concerning peer pressure as Nina sticks to her values and decides that she can have a meaningful relationship with him without resorting to sex the minute she turns sixteen.

The pace of the book is a tad slow to begin with, as Karr is definitely an author who shows her readers her world and characters rather than tell them, but it's not long before Ginnie is attacked, thus prompting Nina to look into the mystery of her father's death and her mother's sudden decision to move her family and take a lower-level job, and causing her to throw up her guard as she has to evade Ed, her mother’s abusive and powerful boyfriend, and the threat of the government. Luckily, Nina is able to make some very good friends and allies, which provide an excellent support system for her and some comedic relief at times. The ending, however, is full of very real danger for Nina, with some fatal consequences, giving XVI its edge and tension, but Karr leaves the book wide open for a sequel that will be eagerly welcomed.

Cover Comments: Eh, this isn't the best cover in the world...I like how the girl's face is partially obscured with the title treatment, but this is a very dark cover and a little dull. definitely not my favorite.

Kindle edition purchased.


Kelly aka yllektra(I Work For Books) said...

Hee, what a coincidence!
I just received my copy of this book and I can't wait to start it. I actually got like 4 books and I don't know where to start!!
Thanks for the review!

ivanova said...

This book sounds very interesting!
I agree with you about the cover. It's hard to even read the title.

Tara said...

The premise of this book is so intriguing to me. I'm a sucker for any dystopian fiction so I must get my hands on this immediately. I agree with you on the cover as well - not my fave. Wonderful review!

Miss Remmers said...

I can't wait to read this book! It looks fantastic - although, I'd agree the cover is a bit drab.

Anonymous said...

I just got this book! It sounds so good. Can't wait to read it!

Katie said...

This was a great review! I've been dying to read this forever and now I'm totally jealous!

Jessica Lawlor said...

I'm really looking forward to this one and the world building Karr does. Sounds great!