Sunday, May 8, 2011

Review: XVI by Julia Karr

In case any of you are following the discussion around yesterday's post but aren't subscribed to The Liberal Rocker, here's the link to the follow-up to the post to which I linked yesterday.

And here is something to brighten your day.

Clearly I have some sort of condition that prevents me from reviewing any books other than YA dystopian novels.

I almost read XVI by Julia Karr in 24 hours-- partially because I wanted to have it done in time for book club, and partially because it was just that good. I somehow managed to forget all of the things I meant to say about it at said book club, though, so I figured I'd talk about it here.

Description from Shelfari: "Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend Sandy and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world, even to the most predatory of men, that she is ready for sex. Some girls can't wait to be sixteen, to be legal. Nina is not one of them. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. Even though she has no choice in the matter, she knows that so long as her life continues as normal, everthing will be okay. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer. 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."

First, to address something I failed at explaining last night: The media itself is not evil. It's the government-owned Media (capital M) that is bad (which, fair enough, is the only media except for some underground bloggers mentioned occasionally who usually mysteriously disappear). (Also, every now and then all of the talking advertisements that line the street go silent. Then a voice comes on and says "This moment of silence was brought to you by the Resistance, for with silence comes independent thought." Isn't that clever? Shorting out the ads in favor of a sponsored moment of silence.)

XVI is everything I wanted Delirium to be. In Delirium, the characters were often just talking meat-sacks that filled roles (I mean, there's a reason I call Alex "Awesome Chest Guy"). The romance in XVI, on the other hand, was realistic-yet-sweet, and all of the characters (except maybe Sandy, but that could just be my prejudice) felt like real people. Even the dead ones (Nina's mom is particularly awesome, despite being such a tragic character). Nina herself is a relatable and likable heroine.

And then there is Ed, her mom's evil boyfriend. Oh my god. (If you are one of the few people to have read my book...think Roger. Except worse.) He's not really a fleshed-out character, but Julia Karr makes sure you hate him with a burning passion by the end of the book. And then...well, I don't want to spoil it for you.

I've read a lot of fantastic books this year (Little Brother, several things by David Levithan, etc.), so I don't want to say that this is one of my "favorites," but I'm definitely giving it 5 stars. 
The only bad thing I can think of (okay, maybe it's not the most plot-twistingly original Hunger Games-esque dystopian book, but let us forgive that) is the occasional inconsistency- it mentions how her teacher's glasses must just be for show because everyone gets corrective surgery now, but then in the next chapter her grandpa is wearing some- but hey. A book doesn't need to be perfect to get 5 stars.

So to tie it back in with my other reviews of recently-published dystopian novels, XVI is definitely better than Delirium, and I think I'll go ahead and say it was better than Matched as well, even though Matched gave me more joy in the act of reading.

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