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XVI by Julia Karr

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XVI: 04/16/17

XVI by Julia Karr

XVI by Julia Karr is the first in a YA dystopian series set in Chicago and the surrounding towns. Girls at sixteen are required to be tattooed with XVI, signifying that they are old enough to consent to sex. Nina, though, knows it will mark her as fresh meat.

Besides her impending birthday, Nina has a sister she needs to protect, a mother who has a checkered past, and a stepfather who is abusive. Her support is in the form of her grandparents who have ties to the way things used to be.

Readers fall into two categories with this book: those who LOVE the book and those who HATE it. Criticisms of the book cite a lack of feminist deconstruction of current day rape culture. Not every character can be Katniss, nor should every character be.

Even with an extended family of liberal ex-revolutionaries, it's hard as a teen to fight the system. It's hard to even recognize the system. If you do recognize the way things are stacked against you, it's hard to find a safe way out of the system.

Karr shows that danger first hand with the death of a character. It comes near the end, almost tossed aside if you're racing to see how the book ends. She's almost a footnote in the book — a telling observation on how often the victims are overlooked or worse, demonized. Any possible tarnishing of the rapist's reputation though is played as a tragedy.

XVI then is about the right to choose when and how to be sexually active. That includes autonomy in how one dresses and how one decorates (or doesn't) oneself.

Five stars

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