Publisher: Puffin/ Speak (2011)
Format: Paperback | 325 pages
Format: Paperback | 325 pages
Genre(s): Young Adult, Science-Fiction
Description (Goodreads): "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 the most predatory of men—that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. 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—one 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."
Warning: Contains SPOILERS!I really, really didn't want to write this review, because I feel like I have been posting a lot of reviews highlighting negative points; I'm not sure if the books are all that bad or if it's just me that can't read a book, like it and write an 100% gushing, glowing review. Maybe I am just one of those grumpy people who likes to find flaws in everything, but I haven't read a book that was 100% perfect... yet.
That said, I liked "XVI". Overall it wasn't "that bad". But I did find a lot of flaws, from the glaring grammatical errors to world and character building.
I had high expectations for "XVI". I read all the praise, I saw it mentioned on numerous blogs and it seemed like everyone was talking about it. So I decided to buy a copy; I mean, if so many people liked it, it must be good... right?
The problem with high expectations is that most of the time you end up disappointed. I was. I had a hard time reading this book and maybe a small part of it was because I wasn't in the mood for dystopian fiction; but most of the disappointment came from the book itself because, as I said before I found a lot of rough edges that I thought needed polishing.
"XVI" is one of those books that has a good concept but a flawed execution. I liked the idea of a futuristic totalitarian society (sort of like "The Hunger Games", but global) where the Media controls every aspect of your life (how to dress, what to eat, how to think) and is closely linked to the "Governing Council". I was astonished at the way women were viewed and treated (completely objectified and viewed as inferior). I was impressed at how the author used "consumerism" and the Media as means of control. In some ways, it was very much like our current society, but taken to the extreme... commercials all the time, extreme attention to trends and fashion and a culture that encourages women to think of themselves as sex objects. Some are very rich (high-tiers) while most are poor (lower tiers), and people are shunned or admired by the volume of their wealth. This society is so stratified there is almost no chance for a poor person to get a good job and 'get out' of their "tier".
Then I wanted to know why the society evolved that way (or went backwards). And I simply couldn't find an answer. There is no explanation as to why this 22nd century society is how it is; a war of great proportions is mentioned but that's all. Also, the author plunged right into the story, introducing new concepts without explaining or even describing them properly. "Trannies" and "PAVs" were mentioned but the reader can never get a clear picture of what those are or how they work. Basically the world building needed some work.
The characters also bothered me a bit (I didn't like the names, but that's a matter of personal taste). Nina most of all. She was supposed to be a strong, stoic character (I think) but came off as expressionless. Her trusting attitude also seemed a bit unbelievable because, well, she does live in a non-democratic society. Another thing I found odd was the lack of physical descriptions. If there were any, they weren't very detailed. I'm not saying I like to read pages and pages of hair and eye color, body types and the color and pattern of their shirts but I do like to be able to imagine the characters in my head and with this book... I couldn't since there were only generic descriptions.
The story was all over the place. The romantic part was rushed and unrealistic, the pacing was off and some elements of the plot were pretty unbelievable (Sal and Nina's encounter; Joan's appearance and many others).
Overall, this book had a good concept for a dystopian novel, but unfortunately the author didn't develop it in a way that made it interesting. Also the story was very uneven and not enthralling enough to keep me reading. I managed only a few chapters a day and this book has little more than 300 pages. Karr could have done so much more with this story and the characters (who lacked charisma, most of all). Maybe the sequel will be better.