Sixteen isn't so sweet anymore. Nina is terrified of turning sixteen because of what it means to society. She'll be branded with an XVI tattoo proclaiming her status as a sex-teen. While she'll be allowed to have her GPS removed so the government can't watch her every step, Nina is truly concerned that her best friend is obsessed with following what all the media says is the best way to act, dress & behave. Nina's mom had always been a little on the cautious side, encouraging Nina & her sister Dee to explore other alternatives to the government-supplied media.
When her mother is brutally murdered, Nina is entrusted with a very heavy secret. All that was once true in her world is now just an elaborate lie to help uncover the real truth behind the government-sponsored Female Liaison Specialist service. It is compulsory for lower-tier girls (like Nina & her friend) to apply to this program; but it is far from what it seems. With the help of several friends, including the dashingly handsome Sal, Nina discovers that, despite her mother's murder & her father's death before she was born, she has never been alone.
I absolutely loved this book! There was so much going on all the time that I couldn't put it down. The characters are very well written & have appeal for both guys & gals. Nina is such a strong person, despite her weaknesses, I really wanted her to succeed. She had such a good heart & really only wanted what was best for everyone that it was hard not to root for her. I can't imagine what I would be like if my life was turned completely on its head. She maintained her focus on protecting her little sister & fulfilling her promise to her dying mother. While some of her actions were misguided, I think it gave her a human-like quality. No one is perfect.
I also really enjoyed her friends. They were all so diverse, representing not only different ethnic groups, but also different tiers within the story. They all seemed to help put together the overall image of the setting. Let me tell you, this 2150 Chicago was so different from today that I couldn't even fathom living in a society where you are constantly bombarded with advertisements, the media controls your life, you are completely subservient to the government with absolutely no real freedoms... There was just so much to absorb.
My favorite part of this book was the writing. Julia Karr makes this book so easy to read, but you have to work to get the whole picture. She doesn't start out by telling you everything that has changed from present day to the book's setting. As the story moves forward & we learn more about our characters, we also learn more about the setting. The best example I can give you is that one of the guys plays a musical show at a club. When asked what kind of music, he responds with zydeco from New Orleans. Someone says, from where? The character explains about how New Orleans was wiped out by a series of monstrous hurricanes several decades earlier. Those kinds of nuggets made the book worth reading.
I will caution sensitive readers, that there is a lot of sexual discussion & innuendo (including porn) & some serious violence. Obviously if you've read my review & the blurb, you knew that this was a possibility, but I just wanted to make very clear that, in my personal opinion, this book is truly intended for older teens. I hope you enjoy it anyway.
What are your thoughts about this subject? How much is too much when it comes to sexual content in YA?