In 2150 Chicago, girls are walking billboards. Upon turning 16, they receive government-issued tattoos on their wrists that read “XVI.” They’re supposed to keep the girls safe, but in reality, the tattoos broadcast their brand-new sexual availability. As their sixteenth birthdays approach, Nina is increasingly disturbed by her best friend’s obsession with becoming the ideal “sex-teen” and entering the Female Liaison Specialist (FeLs) service, the only option for women from the lower tiers to move up the social ladder. Meanwhile, Nina works hard to uncover the mystery her dead mother left behind, a secret that could end the entire FeLs program. In her unsettling debut, Karr depicts a sex-obsessed future where women are the perpetual victims of predatory marketing, and other societal ills seen in our present—families trapped in the welfare system, pharmaceutical companies in bed with health-care providers and the media—have been taken to terrifying ends. At times the message goes overboard, but there’s no doubt this well-written, accessible sci-fi thriller will provoke discussion. Grades 9-12. --Courtney Jones
Gender politics and sexual awareness play prominent roles in Karr's thought-provoking dystopian debut, set in a totalitarian future. A solid, enjoyable story. Ages 14 up.