Tuesday, March 22, 2011

XVI by Julia Karr

XVI by Julia Karr
ISBN: 9780142417713
Speak, 2011
272 p.

Plot Summary: Nina lives in a near future dystopian world where citizens are constantly bombarded by "verts," or advertisements. Every girl in this society must get an "XVI" tattoo when they turn sixteen to show others that they are sexually available. Nina is nervous about turning sixteen and all of her friends seem to be obsessed with the idea of being promiscuous and sexually active. Meanwhile, Nina's mother dies and starts finding clues that her mother and father were or are NonCons, people who refuse to tolerate the 1984-esque oppressive government. She must juggle her feelings with a new boy, defend herself from an angry stepdad, and figure out what to do when she turns sixteen before everything comes to a head.

Critical Analysis: XVI has a clever premise, but poor execution. Karr is clearly an inexperienced author and it shows in her writing style. The plot is a bit muddled and she portrays the future poorly. Instead of the colloquialism "I dodged a bullet there," the characters instead say "I dodged a laser there." I found this to be a cheesy ad-lib style to try and portray an otherwise interesting dystopian society.

The characters in XVI are decently portrayed, but all of them obviously serve a purpose. Nina's friend Sandy is there to be the oversexed depiction of what this society does to women. Sal is the tall, dark, and mysterious love interest. The relationships in this book were also poorly executed. Nina starts out saying that she doesn't understand love and thinks this oversexed society is wrong, then twenty pages later falls head over heels for Sal. Also, all of Nina's friends conveniently get matched up with each other throughout the course of the book.

XVI is unfortunately a failed execution of clever ideas. Dystopian novels are common these days, but this angle of repressed women and bombardment of advertisements make it unique. However, the injection of other young adult tropes such as forced love interest and distant or dead parents made it seem at other times like no creativity went into the book at all.

Reader's Annotation: Most girls can't wait until they turn sixteen in Nina's futuristic society. Nina, on the other hand, dreads the day and she may have good reason.

Author Information: Karr grew up designing greeting cards and writing poetry. She is also a late starting author, she began writing when her children left the house.

Source: http://juliakarr.com/

Genre: dystopian literature, science fiction, YA for the ladies

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: What is the importance of the XVI tattoo? Why is Nina so worried about getting it?

Compare XVI to other dystopian literature such as 1984 and more recently Matched.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14-16

Challenge Issues: sexual content

Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: Dystopian literature is a relatively new trend in YA fiction and I thought it would be good to catch up on it. It is also interesting to read science fiction aimed towards young women. I think teens would enjoy the fast paced nature of this book and its interesting premise would help it get off the shelves.

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