This book is so full of awesome! Every time I think about it, I feel like I'm going to jump out of my skin! I'm so hooked by the world and the charact...moreThis book is so full of awesome! Every time I think about it, I feel like I'm going to jump out of my skin! I'm so hooked by the world and the characters. This is a fabulous debut! From the first chapter all the way to the last, I was captivated by the story. It's gripping, exciting and unique. Yeah for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE!!(less)
The idea of XVI by debut author Julia Karr is an interesting one, but I was expecting more from this novel and was left disappointed.
The story is set...moreThe idea of XVI by debut author Julia Karr is an interesting one, but I was expecting more from this novel and was left disappointed.
The story is set in a dystopian, futuristic world. Nina Oberon, the protagonist lives in Cementville outside Chicago. She has a mother, younger sister, Dee, grandparents who live in Chicago and a group of close friends. At 15, she is curious and leery about the world around her, especially with her approaching birthday. When most girls her age are excited about their sixteenth birthday, Nina would rather it pass her by without any flourish.
On every girls sixteenth birthday, they are tattooed with XVI on their wrists letting the world know they are sixteen. This isn’t a good thing. There are girls, like Nina’s best friend, Sandy who can’t wait to have her age on display and that’s because girls are given free reign to have sex with anyone they want — which in turn means the same for any guy to have any sixteen year-old girl he wants.
Unlike Sandy who is loose, wild and eying every guy in the city for future potential, Nina is quiet and shy. She loves her grandparents and sister, can’t stand her mother’s abusive boyfriend, Ed and is easily upset by Sandy’s “sexteen” ways. But when she meets a guy named, Sal, Nina starts to see that there’s more important things than just sex…there’s a thing called love. But she also discovers a very deceptive world and how her life has been a lie.
The more I got into the novel, the more I didn’t understand. It would have been nice to have this unusual portrayal of the world partially explained at the beginning of the novel. Why is this promiscuous behavior normal? Yes, a girl is legal age at sixteen in the novel, but why? Major backstory was definitely needed. Instead, we are plopped into this world and expected to understand why it is this way. How did the people in the novel get to this point?
I liked Nina, but her friend, Sandy, is awfully childish and immature, swinging her hair, making pouting lips and doe-eyes at every guy who walks by on the street. If she’s not careful, she may cause the wrong kind of attention — in what Nina keeps referring to as the Angel incident where a friend of theirs was gang-raped. I’m sure Karr’s point of the novel is to get under your skin and make the novel as bothersome as possible. Well, this point is well taken — it did bother me. It’s downright disturbing.
The plot isn’t the only thing that’s not clear. This world is more of a mix of today and what we perceive the future to be. The narrative and dialogue is littered with abbreviated words I have no idea what they meant. It was like they were tossed in so the book sounds “sci-fi,” but this world doesn’t seem futuristic. It isn’t until several chapters later that many of the abbreviations the characters use to refer to various items and thought-processes are explained. A guide at the beginning of the book is almost a necessity, but, sadly, there isn’t any.
For instance: the characters use PAV’s which are Personal Audio Visual systems, verts play from stores in Chicago — these are advertisements, and Nina and her friends keep referring to trannies. At first I thought these were referring to transvestites, but finally discovered in Chapter 7, they are transport vehicles. On the expressway which is like the subway, Sandy pulls at a retractable zine chip. Is this a magazine? And why is it retractable? Most of all everyone is afraid of the NonCon’s. I gather these people are the nonconformists to society? But why are they nonconformists? People are also terrified of the homeless. Why are people afraid of the nonconformists and the homeless? Then Karr would throw out something like: “My little sister had more energy than ten genrons.” Huh? I obviously felt like I was reading the book in code which took me completely out of the book. It would have been nice for some backstory here, too.
XVI is set in the year 2150. The world is an extremely dystopian, futuristic world. 139 years is not that far away from 2011. Chicago was founded in 1883. Since that time, we have made great advances in technology. However, many things remain the same, such as names of cities. Karr went as far as naming one of the suburbs of Chicago as Cementville. But, the city is still called Chicago along with State Street, Clark Street and Michigan Avenue. If there is a reason that those names remained the same, it wasn’t explained in the book. Or for instance, Nina attends Daley High. But there is no longer a United States. What happened to the United States? Why is there a Greater United Isles? Why is there is a Governing Council? What’s the End of Wars or the Religion Wars and Gang Rule? Events like this are discussed by the characters, but not truly explained.
I know this is an author’s imagination and it is science-fiction. However, many of the various technological advancements in XVI don’t seem far enough away, such as the colonization of the moon. I could see it if the XVI were set way in the future or if it’s going to be a re-visioning, then change everything and explain.
I like when dystopian books explain why the world is dystopian. For instance, in The Hunger Games, it is explained why the United States is called Panem with twelve outlying districts led by the government controlled Capitol. XVI needs to be more in tune with it’s dystopian world. I didn’t feel like I was in that world when reading this book.
The plot of XVI does pick up and leads to some shocking discoveries for Nina, including her mother’s murder. This is where the story became interesting even if it takes several chapters to get there. For seven chapters, all Nina and her friends do is wander around Chicago. Of course, she meets Sal, but not much happens up till her mother’s death. I would have liked to have gotten to the heart of the book faster.
The book’s underlying message of how an intimate relationship, such as sex with someone, can overtake actions and emotions without thought or consequences is a good one. At sixteen, immaturity is still a key decision factor when it comes to sex, including that bad people use it in a horrible way — like Ed — to hurt children. The media also uses sex to their advantage, especially when it’s marketed at teens. This message seems lost in a dystopian world of XVI that doesn’t seem to gel with the story. The end is quite shocking and leads to the conclusion there will be a second book.
Copyrighted. Review reprinted from my blog, "That's Swell!"(less)
Remember when I said in a previous review that we all go overboard on some books? Here’s one in which I’m going to do exactly that!
I recently read thi...moreRemember when I said in a previous review that we all go overboard on some books? Here’s one in which I’m going to do exactly that!
I recently read this delightful and exciting book called DIVERGENT by debut author Veronica Roth. In fact, I can’t stop thinking about it and I have a deep desire to read it again and again. It tops my list as the Best Book of 2011.
What first caught my interest about DIVERGENT is the setting. It takes place in a dystopian Chicago. Ms. Roth, who is from that area, did everything just right by creating a unique and fabulous world. The Chicago in DIVERGENT is not the bustling and thriving metropolis it was once and is now, although the streets and landmarks remain the same. I could easily picture the Chicago where I grew up even though most of the buildings and sights are abandoned in the book, crumbling or no longer standing.
I’ve been waiting for a dystopian to come along that was just as good or rivaled The Hunger Games. DIVERGENT, thank you for coming my way! Yes, it took me some time to read. I was waiting for the major buzz to die down. I wanted to form my own opinion about DIVERGENT.
After turning the last page, now I can say it…WOW. The story captivated me and hooked me instantly and didn’t let me go until its powerful ending. Sure, there were a few things in the book that are a little too easily answered or explained, but I’m letting that slide because DIVERGENT features some fantastic characters and an extraordinary world. I’m longing to revisit it again in the second book, INSURGENT, which comes out in May of 2012.
Danger and disaster lurk around every corner in DIVERGENT. I thoroughly enjoyed how I never knew what was coming next. The story has some surprising twists and one heck of an ending! Holy Toledo! As a reader and reviewer, it’s an awesome feeling when a book is this GOOD.
If you haven’t heard about DIVERGENT, it’s about a teenage girl named Beatrice Prior who lives in Chicago with her beloved parents and older brother. Chicago is now made up of four factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent) and Dauntless (the brave). Beatrice’s family belongs to Abnegation which is in charge of the local government. The people are also extremely humble and modest in nature.
Having turned sixteen, Beatrice has to choose a faction in which to belong. Everyone assumes Beatrice will choice Abnegation, but the choice Beatrice makes changes her and her family’s life forever. That’s pretty much all I knew about DIVERGENT before I read the book, so I don’t want to give too much away. I think it’s a good idea to start reading this book with an open mind and not know too much about what lies between the pages.
The book, like most teen novels, features a romance, but it’s not something that overtakes the story. DIVERGENT mainly focuses on Beatrice finding her way in her new faction, making friends and some enemies, and dealing with her fears, including the big one – she feels as if she’s failed her family.
Beatrice is funny, smart, witty, and strong and though, at times, she doesn’t think she’s brave, she really is. She’s also not afraid to say what’s on her mind and stands behind her convictions. Beatrice’s love interest in the book is named Four. There is a reason behind this name, but you’ll have to read the book to find out. Four is full of mystery, a man of few words, and appears to be fearless, but he’s definitely not as such. He’s just as worried about the future and his livelihood as everyone else even though he doesn’t want to show it. The other side characters Beatrice meets along the way are just as interesting as the main characters and provide a good contrast between Beatrice and Four. Not everyone is alike in this novel and not everyone I liked — there are some baddies that I wanted to squash like bugs!
It features a great cover too. I love the foggy skyline of my beloved Chi-Town and the symbol (not going to say what is, sorry!) on the cover in flames. I really like simple covers like this. They speak volumes about the book inside.
Favorite Quote: “We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.”
If you’re looking for a great dystopian novel, I highly recommend DIVERGENT, even though at times it feels as if the world is bleak and filled with darkness, you still feel as if all hope is not lost. You may even come away with a different perspective and how to harness your own fears. As a writer, DIVERGENT and Ms. Roth, inspire me to keep writing and hopefully to become a better writer in the process.
Review copyright of Reel Swell Productions and featured on my blog, "That's Swell!" (less)