Author: Julia Karr
Release Date: January 2011
Published By: Puffin/Speak
Pages: 325 pages
Goodreads Rating: 3.63 stars
Review: Nina lives in a world where girls are primed from a young age to be "sex-teens", and they must receive a government-issued tattoo of the letters XVI when they turn sixteen to let people know they're ready for sex. At fifteen, Nina is terrified of becoming a sex-teen. At least, until her mom suddenly dies after a horrifying attack and reveals to her shocking secrets that are even more terrifying. Everything she thought she knew about her past is shattered and now she must try to pick up the pieces to find herself again. Except things are never that easy, because her mom's killer is still out there. And he might be after her.
What I loved most about this book was the concept. In Nina's world, looking sexy and being flirtatious is put forward by the media as something that can get you anything you want, but is that so far from our own world? Even in such an enlightened age as ours, so many books and movies and TV shows display girls and women alike using their appearance as a tool for power and it's not too hard to imagine a world where this is taken to the extreme.
But although the concept was intriguing, I found the execution to be lacking in certain respects, such as the characters. Nina was a decently likeable character, and Wei was hands-down my favorite character (seriously, she was brimming with awesomeness). Sal was okay - I never really felt that he was particularly swoon-worthy but I didn't dislike him. The character that I did dislike, however, was Nina's best friend. Sandy was supposed to be an example of a sex-crazed teen girl, but even though I understood that, I wished that she had at least some depth to her and a bit more of a personality.
The author also makes frequent use of coined slang terms, like "emo-detector" and "trannies". Phrases like these can be clever and enjoyable if used in moderation, but I felt like they were just a bit too excessive and were sometimes confusing. It took me quite a while to figure out what FeLS meant, and every time I read "tranny", I couldn't help but think of the shorthand term for transgender people, which is a very different image from hovercars.
I still liked this book, but I wouldn't recommend it if you're picky with your dystopian novels as I am. The concept is fascinating, and most of the characters were well-developed and diverse, avoiding YA stereotypes. I did wish that Sandy was more interesting and that there were fewer made up terms, but other than that, this was an enjoyable read.