Sunday, April 3, 2011

Book Review: XVI by Julia Karr

XVI by Julia Karr

Reading Level: Young Adult
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Speak (January 6, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0142417718
ISBN-13: 978-0142417713
Source: Purchased from
Cover: It's a pretty good cover. I feel it fits the book and if I didn't know what it was about, I'd pick it up off the bookshelf. I think the model looks a bit like Michelle Rodriguez, which I love. I also really like the spine of the book.
First Sentence: " "Nina, look." Sandy jabbed me in the ribs."

Mini-Review: A fast-paced dystopian stunner with a strong female lead and a premise that will be permanently tattooed onto the reader's brain.

Book Summary:

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 on boy who can help--and he just may hold the key to her past.
But with the line between attraction and danger as thing as a whisper, one this is for sure...
For Nina, turning sixteen promises to be anything but sweet.

Book Review:

XVI introduces the reader into a girl's and a parent's worst nightmare: a world where girls a legal for sex at sixteen years old. Told from the point of view of Nina, a girl on the cusp on turning the celebrated sexteen, and terrified of the consequences of being branded by the government required XVI tattoo. With vivid, fuild writing, a strong cast of characters, a charming lead and great mystery,XVI is a great read.

I really loved Nina. She was one of those characters that held her head up high and didn't apologize for it. Having a strong female lead with a topic so risque was essential to the novel. Nina refused to be fed the lies people told her (mostly thanks to an upbringing by her mother) but instead of falling into the mold, she chose to believe in the truth. For that, I will always love her. I thought it was really admirable the way she took care of her little sister. Her relationship with sex was incredibly fascinating and I enjoyed watching her struggle with what it means to be in love with someone. The line between love and lust is blurred even in today's world and it is through this struggle that was can relate to Nina.

The cast of supporting characters really helped make this novel shine. The romantic tension between Nina and Sal keep me truning the pages and I loved Sal quick witted tongue. Sandy offered an unique and essential contrast to Nina. She was the typical sexteen girl, everything the media told her she needed to be, and she still wasn't any better off. I Wei was truly a girl to be admired. Carefree, strong and capable of taking care of herself, she provided a mold for what Nina wanted to become. The thing about Wei was she didn't have too much to worry about. Growing up knowing that The Media is wrong and that her family is part of The Resistance, a group of people working to take down the lying government, she has already accepted that at anytime her family can be taken from her. On top of this, she is on one of the top tiers so money and the world is at her fingertips. However, she was smart and used her wealth to advance in martial arts so that when she gets her tattoo, she can embrace it and make it her own.

As with some of the other dsytopian novels I've read lately, I was truly taken by the setting. Just walking out of your house as a sixteen year old in Nina's world is a risk I'm not sure I'd have been willing to take. In her world, there is no such thing as rape or saying "no" if you are legal. Plus, with the constant bombardment of 'verts (advertisements) on the streets and in their ears its like no matter where you turn, you are being attacked. The overbearing evil government thing was a bit 1984 but in a good way. It truly felt like no where was safe and I could feel Nina's minutes of freedom ticking away with each day she got up.

I felt Karr's writing was simple enough to be truly impactful. Nina had a point of view and I felt it from the beginning. While the plot was interesting, it did lag a bit in the middle. I also was a bit frustrated with the fact that Nina kept so much bottled up inside. I'm a bit tired of protagnists not sharing the burden with people. I wanted her to be honest with DeeDee about her father and just tell her why she shouldn't see him. 

However, this is one of those stories with a premise so fascinating and grotesque, that it sticks with you long after you've finished it. What would the world be like if women were branded with tattoo and thrown over to the hunger and cruelty of men who think that all women want them? Terrifying. The concept still sends shivers down my spine. But with characters like Wei and Nina, we get to see a bit of hope. Even in some of the worst situations, a person's will to find the truth can overcome any situation. XVI is an excellent example of that strength. So go grab the novel and experience Nina's world for yourself. I'm so glad I did! 



  1. I can't wait to read XVI! Great review, as always. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  2. This was very similar to other popular dystopian novels in story, but I enjoyed it. I am loving the dystopian craze!

  3. No doubt it'd be a terrifying world! And I also think the cover model looks like Michelle Rodriguez and she knows how to be tough!


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