Gemma's Reviews > XVI

XVI by Julia Karr
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Aug 17, 2011

it was ok
Read in August, 2011

I read this one because I thought the premise looked… original, which is something I haven’t been seeing much of in the much diluted world of dystopian sci-fi (honestly, it’s like right after Twilight was published, when everything was vampires. But now it’s bad government systems). It was a dystopia about the sexual exploitation of women. There is so much that could be done here, considering this is actually a legitimate issue in today’s world.

Unfortunately, the execution was bad. From the description Goodreads gives you of this book, it looks like it’s going to be scary and intense and sort of mind blowing. But it never got there; it never even got close to getting there.

First, the point of the tattoo is never properly explained. Everyone (save for the narrator, Nina, of course) seems super excited about getting the XVI tattoo that marks them as ready/of age for sex. But what is the tattoo really doing, if anything? Is it saying that legally, it’s now fine, they’re ready if they wanted to? If this is the case, I do not see the point. What good is this going to do you? We can turn eighteen now and legally have sex with whoever (as long as they’re not under eighteen), but we never get tattoos.

Or is it like a ‘free sex’ sticker and men can rape them at any time and that’s perfectly okay and there’s nothing the girl can do about it? So why on Earth would any girl be excited about that? Wouldn’t they be running for their lives, avoiding the government and the tattoos at all possibly costs? And why would the government, even a diluted dystopian one, ever issue this? What good would it possibly due for the society? How would it increase power? Also, aren’t a lot of rapists kind of insane? Would whether or not the girl had the tattoo really matter to them? So why bother with it?

So, really, the story’s entire premise, the entire ‘dystopia’ element of it, doesn’t make any sense. And the author never really did anything to enlighten me on it, anyway.

That’s how I felt with the rest of the world: unenlightened. There was a lot of government stuff in here, lots of names for things the government does. ‘B.O.S.S’, ‘Choosers’, ‘FeLS’, ‘Cinderella Girls’, etc. What are any of these things? Because I never got anything except for a vague explanation of what FeLS was, but that didn’t make a lot of sense, and then the explanation of what it really was, which also didn’t make much sense. (view spoiler) Also, there was the whole tier system, which was mentioned but never explained, and the fact that people are living on different planets now. But the author doesn’t think we’re going to be interested in this, so she never explains it…

Very frustrating. And once you get past all the premise holes, you have to deal with plot holes, character holes… The flawed setting would be forgivable if it had amazing characters and/or awesome plot, but the author fails these in the same way she failed her dystopia.

The main issue here is that nothing is well set up, which makes the entire thing very difficult to get into and/or understand. It prevents the book from leaving any impact it could have made, which is a pity, as XVI had potential to blow minds and give us something to think about.

Instead, I’m stuck speculating the possible purpose of supposedly important and defining tattoo, which doesn’t seem to be all that important at all to anything.

Let’s face it: if XVI was good sci-fi, I’d be left with something more to ponder than the gaping holes in its tragically promising premise.
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