Miranda @ Bibliodaze

I'm an awesome 24 y/o reader and writer of YA fantasy/historical fantasy. I mainly write about awesome ladies and the people who love them. I work at a library and I'm a contributing reviewer to Bibliodaze.

XVI

XVI - Julia Karr Oh boy. Where do I even begin with this? This book was honestly a chore to get through. The writing was nothing special and at times even clunky. At first the world was explained by having characters explain certain parts of their world to each other, otherwise known as the “As you know...” method. It was never introduced naturally; it was all the characters talking about it as if they had just arrived in a new country, instead of having lived in this environment their entire lives. I probably could have put up with this as it does stop after the first thirty or so pages, but there was a whole lotta other stuff in the book that quite frankly pissed me off. If you’re going to do a novel about sexuality and specifically the media’s influence on female sexuality, you should maybe try to avoid slut shaming while you do so. The main character, Nina, has a best friend, Sandy. Sandy is constantly derided and looked down on by Nina, because she’s a “walking sex-teen advert” because she dresses in “revealing clothing,” and seems to think about nothing but sex and flirting and guys. At one point Nina’s grandmother even says with the way she dresses, Sandy doesn’t even look like a virgin. When Sandy rightfully objects to this bullshit, Nina’s grandmother says, “It’s just that dressing that way makes the boys think you don’t want to be [a virgin.]” Excuse me while I scream with rage. It wouldn’t be bad if it were just Nina’s grandmother who thinks this, but Nina herself does, too. Sandy is at times vilified and pitied because she’s become “brainwashed” by the media to act a certain way. Which would have been fine if at any point we were shown that Sandy doesn’t really like dressing in that particular way, or really flirting with boys, but she does it because she feels it’s expected of her in the society she lives in. But no, every scene Sandy is in, this is never addressed. For all intents and purposes, she’s happy with who she is at the moment and she’s ready to go make something else of her life. Oh, and then she gets raped and murdered by Nina’s Mother’s boyfriend. Because what YA really needs is more reinforcement of the “in control of her sexuality and proud of it and then she dies” trope. I probably should have realized how the rest of the novel would go once I saw how the text supported characters slut shaming Sandy and vilified her at the same time. But I stuck with it because I thought, well hey, maybe Karr is setting this up to deconstruct the hell out of it, or subverse the stereotypes and ideas surrounding female sexuality. I should know better by now. In contrast to Sandy, Nina is actively fearful of sex and turning sixteen, when it means she becomes fair game. The reasons for her fear of sex are because at some point her mother’s boyfriend forced her to watch some pornographic videos of sixteen year old girls, and though it’s never described, the acts done in the video are horrible enough to give her an intense fear of sex. This might have been more interesting if Nina were, say, asexual in a society that constantly tells her she should be overtly sexual (gee, just like the one we’re living in now!) but nope. And as soon as Sal, Nina’s love interest, arrives on the scene, she starts getting those tingly feelings all over. Then she decides that, yes, she would like sex some day, but not just now! So remember ladies, if you’re uninterested in sex, just wait for that Magical Cock to show up and you’ll change your mind. I’m sure it was meant to be an empowering, defining moment for Nina--accepting that one day she’ll have sex, and it’s okay, but she’s not ready just yet--but instead I just threw the book across the room. Nina is virginal and pure, she gets to live. Sandy was a whore and got raped and killed. These are just some of the offensive stereotypes and harmful ideas that XVI reinforces and supports. There was also a casual throwaway line that supported the idea that rapes only happen in dark alleys at night with strangers, but that was never really expanded on. For which I’m grateful, to be frank. Oh, and Sal, the love interest, was a stalker. In the beginning he just kept turning up coincidentally in the exact same places Nina was, and then after not even knowing her for a day, gets her phone number from her friends and is shown where Nina lives. Because that’s totally a-okay and a good idea. Honestly I felt nothing when it came to Sal and Nina’s relationship; they had very little time together before they began snogging, and I wondered what they saw in each other. We weren’t really shown any reason why these two are attracted to each other, or how they’d be good for each other. If there really is going to be another book in this series, I wish Karr had taken longer to develop their relationship. Nina herself was too stupid to live. Even though she knows Ed, her mother’s boyfriend, is following her and she gets kidnapped several times, she constantly turns down offers of protection from her friends and walks out on her own. At one point she even leaves Dee, her little sister, who Ed is after, alone in the house while she goes out to spend some quality time with Sal. Because leaving your little sister alone in the house that’s been easily broken into before while her father is actively looking to kidnap her is such a good idea. And then when Nina thinks Dee’s been kidnapped because she’s no longer in the house, she blames herself--or, more specifically, her sexuality. She thinks “if only I hadn’t been a typical sex-teen and gone out with Sal, this never would have happened!” Because we totally need more reinforcement of the idea that a young woman being sexual leads to bad things, don’t we? Dee wasn’t actually kidnapped but Nina continues to blame her sexuality, and we’re given no indication that we should think otherwise. The world building was shoddy at times, and this may be a little thing to get upset over, but calling cars “trannies/trans”? Really? Does anyone really think it’s a good idea to use modern day slurs against a marginalized group of people as slang for vehicles in the future? I never felt like it was a dystopia--everything regarding sexuality, especially rape, are the views that are being held up in today’s time. In Nina’s world, if a girl gets raped, no one in the Government cares, and they actively say it’s her own fault. Yeah, this is something called “rape culture”, and we’re living in it right now. Because of this it felt more contemporary than it did future dystopia. I didn’t really care about any of the characters, though the one I liked the most was probably Wei. I sort of wish she could have been the main character instead of Nina; she was far less of an asshole and actually a much more noble person than Nina. But if any of the characters had died I probably wouldn’t have bat an eye. The villain was laughable and one dimensional, and I never felt threatened by him, mostly because Nina herself never seemed to take his threats seriously either. I was not a fan of XVI, as one can probably tell. For a novel that focuses so much on sexuality and, specifically, the media’s influence on female sexuality, it reinforced and upheld far too many offensive ideas for me to have enjoyed. I honestly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone unless they’re looking to get infuriated for a day or two.

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Progress: 259/720 pages