Review: XVI by Julia Karr

XVI - Julia Karr

First I need to confess I only read XVI because I’ve been participating in A-Z reading challenge and there were very little options for letter X. I like reading dystopias, but after checking out a few negative reviews I knew I probably wouldn’t like this book, but I gave it a shot anyway. Now I don’t think XVI is an awful book, I just think author (accidentally?) made a few big mistakes that overshadowed an important message she wanted to send out.

The story of XVI is set in the dark future where society is highly patriarchal. It’s offensive and oppressive towards women, to the point where I was furious and hardly wanted to read further. Young girls get XVI tattooed on their wrist at sixteen and after that they’re free to have sex, whether it’s consentive or not, nobody really cares! Women are viewed as nothing but sex subjects. It’s a horrifying nightmare world I’d never want to live in.

Nina is getting close to her sixteenth birthday when her life changes abruptly. Her mother is murdered under suspicious circumstances, so she has to move to her grandparent’s house while protecting her younger sister Dee. She also starts to uncover some unpleasant truths about the government and people in her life. The story was complex and at times very intense and as far as dystopia goes, I quite liked it, but I’d like it much more if only there wasn’t the unnecessary sexism.

Nina proved to be a brave heroine, but she made some incredibly stupid choices, like leaving her sister alone when she was supposed to look after her, so their abusive father-in-law wouldn’t kidnap her. And she did that multiple times, not learning from her mistakes at all! At first I liked the romance, but the boy, Sal, totally ruined it for me after Nina saw him kissing with another girl after he already met and liked Nina. He never explained this and it was never even mentioned later in the story. That just proved double standards, how boys can do whatever they want and be with as many girls as they like, while girls are supposed to be innocent virgins. I hated that Nina’s friend Sandy was a character used in this book only to prove the author’s point how girls like her don’t end well: she was an annoying talkative girl, who dressed nicely, wanted boys to like her, and *gasp!* wanted to have sex. I couldn’t stand Nina’s banter against her friend, her criticizing, slut-shaming and constant repeating how she wasn’t like all those sex-teens.

I think the author wanted to prove an important point that I totally support and agree with: that girls should never feel pressured to have sex, not by the boyfriend, the media, their friends or anyone. They should have sex only when they want to and not for any other reason. Unfortunately, the author completely forgot about the girls who do want to have sex. She forgot to send out the message that not all men are monsters, that sex is good and that women can actually enjoy sex, too! In the story, all of the pro-sex girls ended up badly, whether it was dead, raped or homeless. In the end, author wrote an offensive book that highly approves virgins and scorns girls who want to have sex. And that’s not something I agree with at all.