One to Watch: Julia Karr’s XVI

Nothing quite shakes a busy lurker out of her multitasking whirlwind like a good book. 

A Muggle — by which I mean “non-librarian” — friend recommended XVI, by Julia Karr. Because I’m striving valiantly to keep up with YA fiction trends (those kids are going to be my patrons someday), I sat down with it this weekend to give it a whirl.  As matters stood, I was awake in time to set the clocks properly, because darn it, the book was that compelling.  I want to give a copy of this book to everybody I know who has children, and, of course, teens themselves.  It’s the kind of book that, ideally, parents and kids could read together and discuss.  It tackles a number of challenging issues, and it’s going to make some people VERY uncomfortable, but that’s only because the clear-eyed Karr has called shenanigans on some of the ugliest things about our culture:  the media, domestic violence, sexual assault, the restriction of civil liberties, and the class system we all pretend doesn’t exist, to name just a few.

What makes the novel genius, however, is that Karr has created a novel with strong, confident female characters who are not yet ready to have sex, but are still sex and relationship positive.  They simply want more for themsevles:  careers, fulfillment, dignity, true love.  And before you start rolling your eyes, the other piece of genius here is that Karr’s novel divorces morality from organized religion and puts the decisions about sex and sexuality right back where they belong:  in young women’s hands.  I’m not telling you how she pulls that off – you have to read the book!

All of these ponderous questions are wrapped in a darned good thriller, a well-told story that had me racing through the chapters to see how it would end.  This is the first book I’ve read that I would actually recommend to people who enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy for what it was, not the romantic mishegoss people wanted it to be.   Also recommended for young women and their parents, the men and boys who love them, the teachers and coaches who guide them, and anyone who wishes s/he had had this sort of book when s/he was growing up.  I know I’ll be buying it for my nieces when they are old enough to understand, and appreciate, what Nina’s world has to teach them.

Sneakily-hastily I remain

Your Alchemist, who can’t believe she managed to bang that out at the refdesk on a Sunday!


  1. JR said,

    March 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Arrghhh! My system doesn’t have it!

  2. Elissa said,

    March 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Hadn’t heard anything about XVI yet, so thanks for the review! Hope you’re not too tired at work today. :)

  3. LAV said,

    March 13, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    @JR, ILL to the rescue! Hee. Seriously, I would also buy it, read it, and then donate it. It’s that good.

    @Elissa, yay! Will be v. interested to see what you think. I am tired, but I’m caffeinated, adn that should see me through. Also, really good questions today. Hope you are well!

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