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.
I've been anticipating this debut for quite a long time and I can say I was not disappointed. XVI was an intriguing and complex start to what I'm sure is going to be a fantastic series.
The plot and idea behind XVI was the best part. The world building and development of everything was great and Julia never ceased to shock and scare me with how bad things were in this disturbing future where sixteen year old girls were considered nothing but sex objects and could be taken advantage of by any man with no consequences to him at all. "Sex-teen" was an age many girls were so excited to reach- to finally have the "XVI" etched into their skin letting the world know that they were ready for sex.
Nina, the main character, was one of the few fifteen year olds not counting down the days until she turned sixteen and anticipating all the guys she would attract. My heart went out to Nina because she was stuck in a world where she wasn't safe and danger lurked around every corner. The one person in Nina's life that knows things aren't the way they should be is Nina's mother. But when she is stabbed one awful night, Nina is left with no one to trust but her younger sister.
Luckily, she moves in with her grandparents and meets some fellow teenagers not caught up in everything "sex-teen" and following the governments every command. Sal and Wei were two amazing and strong characters and Nina was extremely lucky to meet them. Before dying, Nina's mother revealed some startling things about her past and left her daughter with more questions than answers. Nina is connected to Sal and Wei and their families in more ways than she ever would have thought. I enjoyed watching Nina's relationship with both teens grow- romantically (Sal) and just a close friend and confident (Wei).
There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot and Nina is constantly uncovering new truths about her family and her past. A lot is going on in that sense and Nina is also having to worry about her approaching sixteenth birthday and avoiding her mother's killer. Things were so difficult for her but she stayed strong throughout and proved how one person can make a difference.
XVI was an impressive and extremely thought provoking novel that I had a hard time putting down. It will leave you thinking and anxious to read more about Nina and the rest of the characters. This was a great dystopian novel that was an excellent start to what I'm sure will be an amazing year of books.
Overall: 4.25 out of 5 stars
January 6, 2011/Speak/325 Pages/Young Adult/Book One
Source: Author (ARC)
Other books in the series: Truth (2012)