13 Apr

XVI by Julia Karr, 2011

XVI julia karrIn case you didn’t know, there’s a bit of a dystopian trend happening in the literary world at the moment – well, in the young adult literary world anyway (if you don’t believe me, you can read all about it in a NY Times debate). And that’s the excuse I’m using for reviewing two books in a row that depict a very bleak future for our world (the last being Super Sad True Love Story).

The narrator of Julia Karr’s XVI is Nina, a 15-year-old who’s dreading her next birthday. Why? Because when girls turn 16 they’re considered fair game for every man who wants to have a crack at them – whether it’s one guy in an alley, two guys on a bus or a pack of guys at a party, the girl has to go along with whatever the men want. And on their 16th birthday, the girls are forced to have their wrists tattooed to show their eligibility. They’re also trained to look forward to this “sexteen” experience. Nice, huh?

There’s more to this world – everyone’s implanted with a GPS tracker, there are Governing Council spies all over the shop, troublesome citizens are lobotomotised – but as a teen, Nina is most freaked out about the whole sex-slave thing… especially when she starts to – wooo! – actually like a boy, and realises sex mightn’t be as evil as she’s always thought. And then, even more especially, when it turns out her family has a big anti-government anti-sexteen secret that has her fearing for her life (dum dum DUM!).

I wanted to really love this book. I loved the premise, and Nina’s a cool chick. But, at the risk of showing my pedantry, there’s some shoddy editing. For one, a whole chapter has a heap of quotation marks that face in the wrong direction (eg, ”Hi“), or weird double marks (eg, “Hello, is anyone proofreading this thing?”“).

But worse than that is the occasionally questionable dialogue. Yes, it’s set in the future so there’s some odd slang (transport = “trannies”, every swear word = “shiv”), but teenagers will also apparently become a lot more selfish in the next 150 years. Case in point: at one stage, Nina thinks her pre-teen sister has been kidnapped by a man who will keep her as a sex slave, and Nina was making out with her boy interest when it occurred. So Nina cries:

“I don’t want this body. I don’t want it to feel so good when you kiss me, when you touch me. It’s not fair.”

That would totally be my first comment if my sister was stolen by a rapist, too.

Overall, though, I did enjoy XVI. This future world may be creepy – and I sure as hell wouldn’t want any of my future family members to live in it – but it’s pretty damn imaginative, and the teen love scenes are a bit swoony. AND I like the idea of driving a hover car, dammit.

Read it when you want to consider the future of sexual politics, or to remember what it felt like (or learn what it would have been like!) to fall in lurve at 15.


5 Responses to “XVI”

  1. Richard Thomas April 13, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    Pedantry and shoddy editing…

    (Pssst! Literate Chicken! There’s a classic example of Muphry’s Law in this piece. Unless – like Zaphod Beeblebrox IV – there was an accident with a contraceptive and a time machine.)


    • literatechicken April 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

      Yes, I am hypocrite and published this without reading it over it carefully. It’s fixed now… I hope!

      And was that a deliberate error in your comment? It’s all getting a bit meta now 😉

      • Richard Thomas April 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

        Muphry’s Law dictates that any published criticism of someone else’s editing or proofreading will itself contain a fault.

        I hope you were referring to “Muphry”. Or have I proved Muphry’s Law and not spotted it?

  2. literatechicken April 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    I hadn’t heard of that law! Oh, it’s just so true…

    But yes, that was the (non) error to which I was referring.

  3. M.J. Hearle April 20, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    Hover cars and rape are the cornerstones of all the great literary works!

    Seriously, though it sounds like it could have been an awesome exploration of misogyny and chauvinism but the author bungled it. Cool cover though.
    Maybe the backwards speech marks are a stylistic thing?

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