Sunday, January 16, 2011

XVI by Julie Karr

Book Blurb
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.
My Review
So this is Book #2 for me in the Debut Author Challenge- Yay!  I really enjoyed this one.  I was worried when I started that dystopia would forever be ruined for me by my love of The Hunger Games- what could possibly compare to that?!?!  While this book isn't as haunting as The Hunger Games, it was solidly written and very enjoyable.
The main character is Nina Oberon, a 15-year old girl coming to age in a society ruled with an iron fist by the government and the media.  Nina is brave, independent-minded, and artistic.  She is thrust into not only caring for her younger sister Dee, but also protecting her.  The story is narrated first-person in her voice.  Nina was likeable- a tad bit bland, but solid.  She made me crazy at a couple points, taking forever to connect the dots.  But, she definitely had the voice of a teenager- loyal to her friends, insecure, expressive, loving.  Our supporting characters were also very solid.  I loved some of Nina's friends, and I really liked her family as well.  
I really liked the premise of the story and how everything played out.  Sometimes it seemed a bit slow- with lots of attention paid to Nina's coming to terms with the events that occurred, and then at the same time, something major would happen and Nina's reaction would seem underwhelmed to me.  It's hard to put my finger on it, but in all it was a very minor issue.  My only other minor complaint was the ending- it felt a bit anticlimatic to me.  I am assuming this is a part of a series- there is a lot that still needs to be tied up. I can imagine this book being enjoyed by older, reluctant readers.  
I also loved the message and themes of the book.  There were quite a few- gender politics, media influence, government intrusion on freedom of expression, exploitation of youth, abuse, etc.  There was a lot going on, which made Nina's world seem multidimensional and real.  
I liked this part a lot.  It doesn't really mention Nina's love interest on the cover, and since this is such a new release I suppose I shouldn't mention names.  But let's just say that He seems to be like a great guy with a lot going on under the surface.  I think the author did a great job exploring Nina's conflict over her sexuality with Him, and with the society in which she lives.  For a book that speaks out against the exploitation of young women, the author handled the romantic relationship perfectly.
I thought it was a great book, and I hope that there is more to come from Julie Karr in the future.  I'm so glad I decided to purchase this. 4 stars!

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