Book Review: XVI by Julia Karr

The world of Julia Karr's XVI is dark. Very dark. When teen girls reach the age of XVI (16), they are expected to be ready for sex. Leading up to this age, they are taught to become chic temptresses, full of flirtation and decorated to attract the opposite sex. Apparently, teen boys have full-on access to the girls, whether they like it or not. Basically, government-sanctioned rape is abundant and so are gross pornography vids for older men who may not have access to teen girls any longer.

The main character, Nina, is approaching sixteen, but is not excited at the prospect of having hook-ups all of the time with random guys. She knows that she'll need to have the XVI tattoo inked on her wrist that will announce to teen boys that she's fair game. But, she can't help but try to think of ways to escape the inevitable. And then she meets Sal.

At first, she thinks he's a homeless. She sees him being taunted and kicked by a group of 'letes (jocks) and intervenes, despite the risk of being brutalized herself. In this world, age and status are everything. Higher tiered people have more rights and privileges than their lower-tiered or homeless counterparts. But Sal isn't homeless. So why's he dressing like one? She feels an immediate connection to him, but is perplexed by his sneaky ways and the snippets of insider knowledge about the resistance.

There is so very much more to explain about this complex world, but I don't want to give anything away. This world is rich and deep and scary. There are some aspects of this world that I cannot quite understand, like why the government wants young teen girls to have sex with random boys so readily. Maybe it's a way to keep them focused on being lusty and attractive rather than intellectual.

This world is violent and cruel and almost plausible. I have seen horrible youtube videotapes of young men beating (and killing) homeless people. I know that the media and large companies work to keep teens more interested in trends than the latest news items. And, I know that teen girls are overly sexualized in our media. All of these aspects of the futuristic world of XVI make sense to me.

I am a huge fan of the dystopian genre, and this book is definitely one that I'm adding to my list of recommendations for others who love this genre. It is now out on paperback and you can purchase a copy at most bookstores. (Or you could enter a giveaway for this book that I'm hosting starting tomorrow.)  If you're a fan of this genre, you'll want to find a copy to read. I'd love to hear what you think!

**Review copy provided by Teen Book Scene**