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Review: XVI

XVI is the debut novel for author Julia Karr. It was released on January 6, 2011 in paperback and eBook formats. It is available online and in stores and can be purchased in both formats at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

XVI is one of the books that can be chosen for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at TheStorySiren.com.

Goodreads description:

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.

The year is 2150. And in this not so distant future, the Governing Council makes all the rules. Including the one that mandates that all girls upon turning sixteen receive a tattoo identifying their age and signifying that they are ready, willing and able to have sex.

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.

Reviewer gives this book [rating=5]

On a personal note:

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I wanted to read it for awhile (and not simply because I needed to read a story beginning with the letter X to add to my reviews page). But I actually surprised myself when reading this, because I never usually want more information from a dystopian novel.

In the very few dystopian books I’ve read, either the author will give a tremendous amount of detail about the society created so that I have no questions, or I just don’t care enough to want to know more.

Here, I definitely want to know more. More about how the society evolved from our current one to that future one. More about the NonCons. More about the FeLS. And more about what life is really like for sex-teens. I await the sequel to see if some of these questions have answers.

And, I can’t judge this book based on other stories in the genre as I haven’t read enough to compare, but this was nothing like any other book I’ve read, so to me it was most definitely original.

The end caught me by surprise. I did not anticipate certain events, which is always a plus for me. And I liked the fact that we weren’t left completely on edge for a change. I definitely can’t wait for the next book, but at least I don’t have to stalk the Internet looking for sneak peeks.

The only thing I would have changed in this story, because I’m a numbers nut and I think it would have been cool, is to have had something really shocking happen in chapter XVI, especially since they use roman numerals for the chapters.

One quirky question I have, which I’m not sure will be answered in the next book is: What is so fascinating with the zoo? The characters go to the zoo more frequently than people their age today do. Is there some serenity they find at the zoo or is it simply something they can do cheaply?

***

A sneak peek of chapter one is available on the author’s website.

Currently in the works are the sequel to XVI whose working title is The Sisterhood and a spinoff whose working title is Cinderella Girl.

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