Book Review: XVI by Julia Karr

XVI by Julia Karr
Publication Date: January 6th 2011 by Puffin/Speak

Summary: 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.

Review Overview:

  • Definitely gave me a lot to think about; reminded me a bit of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • Good dystopian story but I think this one will be over-shadowed by the many other novels out there
  • Cheesy romance and the ending fell flat

I enjoyed the concept of the XVI tattoo immensely. I couldn’t help but think to myself: What would happen if girls were required to get a tattoo on their sixteenth birthday making it okay for them to have sex? I felt like it definitely made girls a much easier target for men. The tattooed XVIIIs on the other hand, the newly tattooed ‘adult’ males, reminded me of the rowdy bunch of teens in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Very prone to violence and sexual assault.

As much as I loved the dystopian concept of XVI, I also could not help feeling a bit disconnected from the characters. If I was keeping my facts straight, the novel is set in the 22nd century and so many things have changed. It took me a long time to get into the slang they used and even figure out exactly what they were talking about. It was interesting to see how Karr thought our culture would evolve, but I couldn’t fully immerse myself into the world she created.

I wanted to like the relationship between Nina/Sal, but I just didn’t feel the chemistry between them. It wasn’t necessarily disappointing since I wasn’t reading for romance, but it would have added a bigger conflict on my part as a reader if I did feel the sexual tension between them.

Well Nina’s birthday was inevitable so there was no surprise when it finally came around. Overall, I thought that the ending fell flat. I thought to myself, That’s it? There were definitely a lot of things that were left unresolved which leaves some opening for a sequel. Julia Karr’s website indicates that she is working on Truth, the sequel, but I am not sure if that is in the works to be published yet.

If you enjoy reading dystopia, this is definitely for you. If you’re new to the genre, this is not what I’d pick to introduce you to dystopia.


  1. Likewise, this has been one to sit on my TBR list. But since I’m not such a fan of dystopian novels, that’s been my main reason for putting it off. And going by your review, I’ll keep putting it off for a little while longer.


  2. I keep reading mixed reviews, but definitely haven’t seen anything higher than 3 stars for this book. I may read it for the DAC. I do read for romance *hangs head in shame* or at least I do consider it a perk so I’m worried by this lack of chemistry you mention.

    1. LOL reading for romance is not shameful at all… But if that’s what you’re looking for, I don’t think this one will wow you.

  3. Great review, Cia. I have this one sitting on my shelf and I am looking forward to reading it, but I trust you when you say you didn’t feel the chemistry between the characters. I’ll have to watch out for that when I pick it up.

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