Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Review: XVI by Julia Karr

From Back Cover: 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. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: In the future Chicago in XVI, the novel by Julia Karr, the government forges people’s thoughts using media, and monitors its citizens closely through the use of things like GPS and tattoos which indicate that it’s legal for girls to have sex. The choices for a girl from a low tier are limited if she’s not smart or artistic enough to get a scholarship: stay in the same tier you’ve grown up in or move up by marrying someone rich or becoming a female liaison specialist (FeLS), a girl trained for diplomatic service for the government. However, what most citizens don’t know is that FeLS is actually a cover for another government operation, one that’s much darker.   

As a novel, I found XVI pretty thought provoking. Karr really makes you think about how the media can affect society’s perceptions. For example, Sandy, the best friend of Nina (the protagonist), loves browsing through XVI Ways and following its suggestions. So, she isn’t actually very different from a lot of teenage girls who flip through magazines, getting advice about life, love and fashion.

XVI also makes you think about how one’s class and wealth governs what options are available to an individual in life. Today, those who grow up in poverty, especially girls, are often constrained in the ways that they can improve their socioeconomic status.

Despite the interesting world, I didn’t love XVI for two reasons: 1) the characters and 2) the slang and terminology. I found it hard to connect with Nina even though I liked that she was protective of her family and wants to wait to have sex, unlike a lot of female characters that I’ve read about. As well, I found the character of Sandy very annoying because she seemed to only be interested in guys and having sex, dressing provocatively and getting into FeLS. In general, she was just completely clueless about the actual reality of the world. Had Sandy been my best friend, I’m sorry to say I would have ditched her a long time ago.

The other reason I didn’t love XVI was because of its slang and terminology. For some reason, it bothered me when a word like advertisement was shortened to the word vert (rather than something like ad). It took me a few seconds to grasp that that’s what a vert was.

Also, sometimes it took a while for certain terminology to be explained. For example, Nina talked about FeLS a couple of times before it was finally explained on page 25 what FeLS was and what it stood for. This kind of slowed down the pacing of the novel because I kept thinking, “What the heck is FeLS, and is it some abbreviation that I should know but can’t remember?” The pace though did pick up later as I became more familiar and comfortable with Karr’s writing style and the story became more interesting.

XVI was released in January 2011 by Speak.         
Comments About the Cover: Since I usually go for books with pretty covers, this isn’t a book that I’d typically pick up if I was just judging based on the cover. Also, even though I like the way the title is huge and easy to read, I think it’s a little too subtle if you don’t know the novel’s title is XVI. The XVI could definitely be dismissed as just being part of the cover design, leaving the reader to wonder what the title is. 


  1. Really nice review Zahida, I had a similar reaction to this one! I thought the world was really interesting and also horrifying, but I had trouble with some of the characters. I was really confused about FeLS as well, I thought the same thing you did – that I'd missed the explanation for it somewhere and was out of the loop:)

  2. l agree, it was kind of strange how words were shortened and made it even more confusing for me.
    This book wasn't as great as l hope but like you, still enjoyed it =)

  3. Sandy annoyed the heck out of me but it was still sad to find out what happened to her. I believe there's going to be a sequel so I'll probably be reading it.

  4. Great review. I have a couple of problems with this novel as well but I do agree the premises is interesting even though it is a little disturbing.

  5. I'm really looking forward to reading this. I joined the Dystopia Reading Challenge but haven't gotten to read any dystopia yet. I suck. I was supposed to buy this but I'm banned from buying books this whole month. Anyway, thanks for the great insight to this book. :)

    Chel @ The Procrastinator's Corner

  6. It sure sounds like a thought provoking story! Sorry you didn't like the characters though. I have this one on my shelf to read soon, so hopefully I'll be able to follow the slang better now after reading your review.

  7. Zahida! The slang and unexplained terminology would have annoyed me to no end! For da realz! LOL

    But seriously, "vert"? Is that really going to be how we talk in the future?

    Great review. I agree about the cover. Very pretty but the title is worked in kind of subtly.

  8. I'd thought of doing a review on this one. I agree 100% on the characters. It's hard to really love them when, like Sandy, they never do anything to better their own situation. Cluelessness then becomes willing ignorance, and I didn't dig that one bit. Disagree about the cover, though. I thought that it captured the mood/moodiness of the novel perfectly.

    Really enjoyed your review. Hope you'll drop by to read mine sometime! :)
    Ninja girl


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