Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world—even the most predatory of men—that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past—one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer.
Nina is different than most girls her age. Instead of looking forward to being 16 and being branded as ready for sex to all the men, she is terrified. She never bought the media's habit of shoving sexual readiness down young girl's throats. Her mother has always been right by her side doing everything she can, and sacrificing all to ensure that Nina doesn't end up like many sixteen years, dead in a gutter with no one caring one bit. However, that all changes when her mother is attacked and just before she dies, she tells Nina something that will change her life forever. Nina knows she must find answers and find away to keep her and her little sister safe as her sixteenth birthday is right around the corner, and then she will be fair game.
This book is a very dark dystopian that will make your skin crawl. The men ogle the young girls and sometimes only the lack of the sixteen brand on their arms saves them. Sixteen is now sex-teen, and once girls reach this age they are fair game. In fact the men can pretty much do whatever they want, and get away with it because the media and controlling government has made it known that all girls are "dying" for sexual attention. There is no concept of rape to the authorities, the girls always want it, and if she is injured or even killed in the process, it's just shrugged off and accepted as another sex-crazed teen gone bad. There were so many times I was literally sick to my stomach while reading this book, it was that horrific. The girls are taught to objectify themselves and the media ensures these girls will always be "primed and ready" by the time they turn 16.
This book issue's affected me more so than any other dystopian book I have read. Yes, in many other dystopians there is plenty of oppression and even terrible deaths for those that rebel. However, being, a female and a mother, who also remembers what it was like to be sixteen and the concept of this book is just utterly horrific. Sixteen is such a vulnerable age. To be basically whored out from that point on, well I just can't imagine how the women are able to function as they grow up. I guess that is the point, screw them up while they are young and they won't have the ability to rebel later. It is never really said, but I have a feeling the majority of the top officials must be men, or at least heartless women, as no one in their right mind would ever bring such a system about.
Putting aside how drastically this book effected me, it did drag a little. I also had a hard time relating to the characters, as they just did not suck me into their lives, nor did they make me feel any real emotions. Yes, I felt bad for them and their situations, but when things happened to them, I just didn't feel invested enough for it to really hit me that hard. I do think the series has a lot of potential, and I did start to have more of an attachment to the characters as the book went on. I just wish that connection would have been established sooner as I would have been a little more impacted by the events in the book. All in all it was a good read, definitely something you do not want to miss if you are a fan of dystopian novels.