Finally I'm reviewing a book that I just read for shits and giggles (not a bookclub/challenge pick or a book I read for school.) I signed it out at work because I wanted to make a conscious effort to read more releases from 2011 (I don't know why I had this thought, but I rarely read new releases, so I wanted to try something different I guess.) With that said, I had absolutely no idea what to expect when diving into this novel. Unfortunately, I didn't really buy into this dystopia society, which really hampered my reading.
It's no secret that dystopias have become one of the new "it" things in YA literature, and while I do like me some dystopia, I find that this upsurge in interest has really diluted the quality of dystopia titles coming out in the YA market. The premise of this novel sounded interesting, what with the tattoos and the sex, and how the main character wanted to take no part in it, but there were a few things I just couldn't buy into. For one, why did these girls need to get tattoos when they turned sixteen? It was supposedly as a means to protect their young and innocent selves from being taken advantage of or something, but I never got that feeling; all the tattoos did was make girls targets for sex offenders because they knew that they were "of age". Maybe I'm just not remembering the reasons for the tattoos correctly because I read this about 3-4 weeks ago.
Another thing that bothered me was that the characters dialogue wasn't really distinct. Everyone kind of sounded the same, but their personalities were enough to differentiate them from one another. Speaking of characters, I have to say I did like Nina, and she is a good role model for younger to mid-teens who will probably end up reading this novel, what with her values of not wanting to have sex the very moment she's legal. However, she doesn't completely ignore her feelings and urges; she acknowledges them, but doesn't let herself get carried away. Her best friend on the other hand, drove me nuts, which I guess was the point. There was very little that was likable about her, but I suppose she was meant to be an example of what happens when you become obsessed with sex: you start dressing like a bimbo, putting boys over your best friend, become a brainless airhead, etc etc. She did have some redeeming moments though, which added a bit of depth to her character, until she was killed off.
Another small plus for this novel was the role that the parents had in the story. It's a common complaint that YA books focus too much on the teen characters and there's little to no coverage on the parents of any of these characters. With this book, it's definitely not the case. These kids know that they're in over their heads and ask their parents for help, though the only parents we actually see are Nina's mother (who dies near the beginning of the book), her grandparents, and her asian friend's parents (sorry, I can't remember her name at the moment.) Anyhow, it was still nice to see the inclusion of parental units within the story.
My last complaint is with the writing: there's nothing particularly BAD about it, but there's nothing very good about it either. It's very plain, very simple and rather bland. I don't think that'll bother the target audience too much, but I like a little more something-something in my writing. The overall plot was a little meh as well, but there's definitely enough to keep it going at a decent pace: Nina's trying to figure out who her father is while protecting her little sister from her crazy dad. The sister-sister bond was definitely super-cute and something else I appreciated.
The last thing I wasn't sold on was the romance. Nina and her love interest start off disliking each other (of course) and while their reluctant friendship was genuine enough, the flat writing never really brought it to life for me. Also, I felt like their feelings progressed pretty quickly given how much time they actually spend together. Granted, their in a pretty heavy situation together, so maybe that's what brings them together so quickly, but there was just something off about it, for me.
The book ends on a cliff-hanger of sorts, so I do believe that there's going to be a sequel. I don't think I'm going to continue with this series though.
Final Verdict: I didn't really buy into this dystopic world, or the romance, so while the premise sounded kinda cool to me, it ultimately ended up falling flat. The main protag is someone that girls will be able to relate to and I think she's a good role model for said target audience which is a definite plus, but I think I was a little too old for this book. This was perpetuated further by the simplistic writing, which isn't actually bad, but it just didn't do anything for me. As far as dystopia titles go, I've read much better, but this isn't all bad. Still, I'm a little hesitant to recommend it, unless you're between the ages of 14-17.