About the Book

Title: XVI (XVI #1)
Published: 2011
Series: XVI

Cover Story: Faking It
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: -5 & +5
Talky Talk: Straight Up… But With NewSpeak
Bonus Factor: Dystopia, Feminism
Relationship Status: Sister Suffragette

Cover Story: Faking It

I wouldn’t personally pick this cover out, but it’s kind of edgy, and I think it looks like it could be the cover of a John Niven book. (At least that’s what I tell myself.)

The Deal:

Nina Oberon’s birthday is just a few months away, and unlike most girls her age, she actually dreads turning 16. Because once she becomes the number that spells a driver’s license (aka freedom) in this world, in hers she’ll have to report to get her GC-mandated ‘XVI’ tattoo, proclaiming to every guy who cares to look that she is legal. Legal for sex. And she hasn’t bought into all of the hoopla distributed by the government on how to be a ‘sexteen’– you know, how to dress provocatively enough, bat your eyelashes and flip your hair– because it’s time to attract the boys/men/government officials!!! For sex! Because you’ll like it! Even if it’s a bunch of them and only one of you! In an alley! Her mom has taught her to question the GC (Governing Council, if memory serves) and that it’s fine not to have sex until you’re ready. Also, Nina has taken care of her mom– after one of her frequent beatings at the hands of her mom’s gross boyfriend, Ed– enough times to be a little afraid of sex, truth be told. So she sighs at her BFF Sandy, who is about as opposite from Nina as you can get.

Tragedy strikes, like it does, and Nina and her little sister move out of Cementville to live with her grandparents, where Nina sets out to fulfill the final request of a dying woman, and find out the truth about her world.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Nina is great. She’s a thinker, that one, and I’d be proud to call her my best friend. She doesn’t take lightly having to care for her little sister, protect everyone she loves from evil Ed, or her developing feelings for a certain young man.

But if I’m honest, I really, really want to be her BFF only if I get to hang out with the rest of her friends! Wei is such a kick-ass girl, I’d beg her to teach me Cliste Galad (my favorite thing in this book! –a type of martial arts developed by Scottish women! It’s a mixture of mysticism and Celtic warrior fighting! Seriously! Can this exist in real-life, PLEASE?!!!!) and I’d totally not flirt with Sal, even though he’s dreamy. I’d love Derek and Mike and even Sandy.

Swoonworthy Scale: -5 & +5

Okay, so obvs there’s some seriously un-swoonworthy stuff in this book. Since the Feminist Government had been overthrown, women weren’t much more than property, and yet the youth were taught from such a young age to be so highly over-sexualized, that most young women bought into the whole ‘sex-teen’ thing. At least until something terrible happened to them. But of course, usually they would just mysteriously disappear after that.

I loved this aspect of the plot, and I think it’s a good idea for us to take a look at where our society is headed, (or, at the risk of being booed, where our little girls are headed when the idols being presented to them are Britney and Miley.) but I also hope that this series (and it WILL be a series! And I WILL read it!) doesn’t head into the southern-gothic-mom-zone. (i.e. “Sex before marriage = you die, usually by way of dramatically catching a bunch of nasty diseases and getting pregnant and end up having a baby in a gutter.”).

Because Nina and Sal? Swoon.

Talky Talk: Straight Up… But With NewSpeak

Karr writes Nina’s voice effortlessly. I was swept up in the story immediately, and finished it in one night. (Thanks, Julia Karr, for the bags under my eyes, due to the fact that I couldn’t put your book down!) Since it’s set in the future, there’s a lot of new language, but not so much that it detracted from the story. (But if I’m honest, and like my mamma said, ‘God hates a liar.’, I’m not sure all of it will work. I’m ALL FOR re-appropriating words, but I’m not so sure ‘trannie’ is the best nickname for ‘transport’).

Bonus Factor: Dystopia

Scene from Bladerunner with a flying car in a city looking at a giant electronic billboard of a geisha

We all know (thanks to the NY Times! Where would we be without them?!) that Dystopia is the new black –it’s stylish and affordable, and goes great with everything!– where YA books are concerned, but this book has come at the right time for me. (i.e. I haven’t read so many mediocre books of the genre so as to throw the baby out with the bathwater… yet). And the version of the future that Karr crafts is both scarily believable and plain scarily scary.

Bonus Factor: Feminism

Raised fists in different skin tones wearing nail polish

Three cheers for feminism! And for books like this– may they give us enough pause that we, as a society, never let the worlds portrayed in them come to be.

Relationship Status: Sister Suffragette

I borrow this relationship status unapologetically from Sarah. Because I will stand shoulder to shoulder with this book to win the vote, and to declare that we will have sex when it’s right FOR US, no matter our age, no matter what everyone else is doing, and no matter what ‘Sexteen Ways’ tells us is appropriate! And I can hope that our daughters daughters will adore us.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). XVI is now available.


Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.