by Julia Karr
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really, really liked it
Every girl gets one. An XVI tattoo on the wrist – sixteen. They say they’re there for protection.
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.
XVI takes everything about our society that is consumer driven, class based, and sexualized and magnifies it into a very intense future, where your sixteenth birthday implies you’re ready and willing for sex, society is divided by a rigid class system, and the media/advertising companies are everywhere and more than a little bit brainwashing.
Nina is not looking forward to her sixteenth, though her friend Sandy is the perfect example of a “sexteen.” Nina doesn’t feel ready to have sex, and does not want the pressure that comes with the XVI tattoo on the wrist. After tragedy strikes her family, Nina and her younger sister move in with her grandparents, and it’s the beginning of a mystery surrounding her father (who’s dead, isn’t he?) and the FeLS (Female Liaison Specialists) program.
The world that Julia Karr has created may seem light, full of technology to make anyone drool and consumer driven, and it is, but it’s also incredibly raw and gritty. It’s a society driven on sex and media, yet seems to have done away with today’s problems, until you get down and dirty and discover that it’s all still there, just covered up by brain-washing adverts and the government. The first hint we get that things are not all sunshine and daises in this bright future is through the NonCons (non conformists, I assume) who break the law to get their voices heard. I loved every new insight into Nina’s world, and could happily keep reading about it.
Nina herself is someone I connected with very well, and I loved her family. She’s a character who really grows throughout the story, and she is a lot stronger than she often gives herself credit for. Sal, the mysterious boy who knows more than he should is also quite well developed, through I would like to know more of his story. The ending of the story was a little rushed in places, I thought, but I was still holding my breath through it all, and was definitely shocked at some of the revelations and resolutions.
XVI is a very well written, well developed story that looks at a future not too distant from our own, one that is scarier than it may seem. The mystery surrounding Nina and her father, as well as the FeLS program drives the book and makes you not want to put it down until you see how it ends. Julia Karr’s debut is not one to miss.
XVI is part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.