Sarah's Reviews > XVI

XVI by Julia Karr
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's review
Feb 05, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: my-epic-ya-binge, dystopia, ya
Read on April 23, 2011

There's a lot of like about Julia Karr's debut YA novel:

XVI takes place a very interesting world, and the author devotes ample time developing that world, but isn't expository about it (this is often a huge issue with me with dystopian & UF novels). It's a chilling place where advertising and "Media" bombard everyone with constant messages aimed at molding their thoughts and behavior and reinforcing a 10-tier class system. The world isn't over-the-top scary and ominous like some dystopians--which is refreshing, but at the same time, certain realities of the world as scary (specifically, the sexual availability of girls once they turn 16 and the near-impossibility of moving between social classes, which means that the lowest class people work as human guinea pigs).

The plot revolves around Nina discovering her family's history--and thus the dark side of her society. As her family's backstory enfolded, I was more and more drawn into the story (especially as Nina learns more and more about her mother's sacrifices, which are pretty gut-wrenching).

Finally, XVI is very much a commentary on media influence and threats to personal freedoms (including--which is awesome for a YA novel--threats to sexual and reproductive freedoms), and it's done well. (I keep thinking of this in contrast to books like Matched or Delirium which are very much "I can't love who I want to love!" books, which feel kind to me for frivolous for dystopian.)

There were a few aspects of XVI that didn't float my boat so much, however:

There's a relatively small sub-plot of Nina's first-ever romantic relationship. I never really felt invested in her relationship with the boy in question (again, I was more interested in her discoveries about her family), and while he's an important part of the plot moving forward, the chemistry between them was kind of "meh." Fortunately, there were no love triangles and no instances of anyone being "inexplicably drawn" to anyone.

The FeLS, which lower-class girls aspire to join to move up in the world, is confusing from the beginning. Clearly, it'd been sold to the girls from the beginning as glamorous, but it was very vague.

I wanted to know more about what the boys are taught, the flipside to the XVI Ways propaganda. Nina has a circle of friends, including boys, who clearly haven't bought into the sex/power paradigm that dominates their world. I wanted to know why. Obviously, the story is story from Nina's first-person POV, but this could have still been dealt with.

According to the author's website, she's working on a sequel and a companion novel. While XVI reads as a standalone, I can see a sequel answering a lot of my lingering questions, especially about the FeLS and the NonCons/Resistance movement (fingers crossed), so hopefully the sequel comes to fruition.

I recommend XVI to folks looking for an interesting dystopian, with a bit of mystery, that's serious and lacks swoony love triangles.

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Reading Progress

04/23/2011 "I keep reading dystopian trying to recreate that Hunger Games experience." 1 comment
10.0% "Thus far, an interesting take on gender/sex/power..."
100.0% "Good stuff, though it does "need" a sequel, though I'm not sure one is planned..."
100.0% "Oh, oh... just checked the author's website, she has a sequel and a spin-off in progress... That makes me feel better." 2 comments
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