Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: Stung - Bethany Wiggins

Stung by Bethany Wiggins
Series: Stung #1
Genre: YA, dystopian, romance
Published on April 2, 2013
Published by Walker Childrens
Pages: 304
Read From: 5.12.13 - 5.15.13

Fiona doesn't remember going to sleep. But when she awakens, her world no longer exists. Her house is abandoned and broken. Her neighborhood is barren and dead. And there is a tattoo on her right hand. A tattoo Fiona doesn't remember getting. . . .but somehow knows she must conceal at any cost. Because humanity has been divided. 

Those bearing the tattoo have turned into mindless, violent beasts that roam the streets and sewers, preying upon the unbranded, while a select few without tattoos live protected inside a fortress-like wall, their lives devoted to rebuilding society and killing all who bear the mark. 
And Fiona has awoken branded, on the wrong side of the wall, and. . . .normal.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yes; in fact, it's what initially caught my interest. I had no idea what it might be about, but a bee on the cover coupled with a syringe is rather intriguing, is it not? Too bad it doesn't match the story within.

Characters: Fiona is about as intelligent as a box of rocks, and has just as much personality. Never has the term "flat" been so applicable to a protagonist than with Fiona - or "Fo," as a lot of characters like to call her. I totally did not connect with her on any level whatsoever, and I just wanted her to die so the book - and her continued stupidity - would end. There are at least three major points in the story that I quite literally smacked the book with my head in utter disbelief. Fiona is living in a post-apocalyptic-like world. She is wanted by at least three different people/groups - as a snack, a bargaining chip, a sex object (no joke), whatever. The point is this girl can barely stay in one place for a single night without possibly being caught, so she has to constantly be on the move. At one point in the story, Fiona comes across a stash of clothes. Now, think about what you would do in her place; you would find the sturdiest, most practical clothes, wouldn't you? That's not the first thing Fiona goes after - oh no. She snags a pair of frilly panties, a lacy camisole, and a pink sundress because it makes her feel girly and she can do twirlies in the skirt. I don't really know what to say, so I'll just let that statement speak for itself. Other than this is our protagonist, and she doesn't make any other intelligent choices as the story continues. Dreyden Bowen I will address in the romance category, but my opinion of him is definitely not a positive one. About the only character I halfway liked was Arrin, and I really didn't even like her. She was a slimy little double-crosser, but at least she constantly stated how stupid Fiona was, which I really did appreciate. There is no principle villain - not until the very end, and he's not at all frightening in any way whatsoever. The "beasts" are like zombies on steroids that walk on all fours and salivate and will eat anything, not just brains. And everyone else is a hormonal mess just looking for the next gal to rape. Because apparently if the female population ever goes down, every single guy out there is going to turn into a rapist.

The Romance: "You might as well have eaten my heart straight from my living body. I would rather die a thousand times at your hands than see you captured. Even if you eat my heart. Because you already own it." Dreyden Bowen to Fiona - page 185. And that is why this is probably the most nauseating part of the story, and also the most focused on. There is no love triangle (yet; there will be in the sequel), but the romance between Bowen and Fiona has to be one of the most horrible teen romances I have ever read. When Bowen and Fiona first meet, Bowen thinks Fiona is a boy and he treats her absolutely horrible, beating her with his rifle, kicking her, abusing her at every turn. But as soon as he discovers that she's a girl - well, that's a totally different matter! It's all right to beat up a helpless boy, but certainly not a girl! Sorry, but Bowen was forever solidified into an abusive jerk after that. And he really doesn't improve, as his moodiness begins to show through. He thrusts Fiona up against walls and whips his gun around on her if she so much as asks a polite, curious question, then turns all sulky and mutters some angry retort. But it's all right, because he doesn't actually ever hit her - just almost (that's sarcasm, by the way). To seal Bowen's complete and utter attractiveness and gallantry, Bowen tells Fiona at one point that she's not safe even with him, because he just might rape her, 'cause like all of the other men, he hasn't seen a woman in a while, so the temptation might just be too great if she doesn't make herself look more like a boy. But it's okay! Bowen is still gallant and charming and desirable because he is resisting the urge - but only if Fiona doesn't look like a girl. This is our handsome, wonderful love interest, and we Readers are subjected to makeout session after makeout session,  where Fiona practically eats Bowen like a huge chunk of chocolate, and then gives us descriptions of what he tastes like!! And you know what - given Fiona's situation, the overall "hotness" of my proverbial escort would be the last thing on my mind. It never is explained why the two fall so hard for one another. I can only assume that for Bowen, it's because she's the first girl he's seen in a long time. And as for Fiona . . . Well, I've already stated that she's about as brilliant as a box of rocks.

Plot: The honey bees have died, so scientists were forced to engineer new ones. These new bees caused a flu epidemic, which turned people savage before they eventually succumbed to the illness and died. So the scientists engineered a vaccine, tattooing those who received it with a bee insignia. The vaccine caused the people to turn savage permanently, and in a last-ditch effort to save humankind, a great wall was built to separate the uninfected people from the "beasts." Gangs roam around hunting marked people to sell on the black market - where they are sent to "the pits" where they engage in gladiatorial-like fights - or to the scientists within the wall, where they are looking for a cure. Meanwhile, the beasts prey on anyone they can find, tearing them to shreds, and those who are marked but haven't yet turned hide in the sewers. Fiona wakes up in this world after a four-year coma. She doesn't remember what happened and she doesn't recognize this new and dangerous world. But she sets out after hiding her own mark and stumbles on a helpful sewer-dweller (called a Fec), and then gets snagged by the militia. But when Bowen remembers her from when they were kids, he decides to help her and takes off into the "wilds," intent on selling her to the scientists. Fiona is pretty cool with this, even though she knows she'll be experimented on like a guinea pig - and will probably die. But when one night Bowen leaves her unshackled and falls asleep, rather than running off with their supplies and Bowen's gun, Fiona sits there are stars at Bowen's lips . . . for hours. I am not exaggerating; it says so on page 137. This is one of the "three major points" that made me smack my forehead. Not only does this demonstrate Fiona's furthered brilliance, it's also a plot problem. There is no conceivable explanation for why she wouldn't have done this! It may be dangerous out there, but with a pack of supplies and a gun, Fiona could have made it on her own pretty well. Besides, the dude is going to take her to the scientists; how is that better than hiking out on her own? My other biggest issue isn't so much a plot hole as it is just an unnecessary complication. Fiona is holed up in a building, waiting for Bowen to return from doing . . . something, and she's surrounded by a pack of guys who want to take her away and do what slimy, hormone-crazy dudes want to do to a girl. Fiona has a gun and lots of windows at her disposal. Rather than holing up like a sniper and picking the punks off, she waits at the top of the staircase, paralyzed, and only shoots when someone comes to the top. She doesn't wait to see who it is (possibly Bowen? Nah, couldn't be), and pulls the trigger. Brilliant, Fiona - just brilliant. And yep, it causes problems. Loads of problems. And why did anyone think Arrin was trustworthy? I certainly didn't, and Bowen knew she was dangerous. And yet . . . The rest of the plot is focused on the mushies, and we all know how I felt about that.

Believability: Here's another problem: the Author asks her Readers to completely ignore all plausible science for the duration of Stung. A vaccine turns a bunch of people into complete hulking brutes. And there is a lot of emphasis on hulking. Maybe this vaccine should be introduced to athletes, especially wrestlers. Everyone will look like Popeye by the time it's done its work. Okay, problem number one: when has a vaccine EVER done something like this? It's not even remotely possible. Bad allergic reactions, yes, but this goes way beyond an allergic reaction. And before the scientists released their genetically engineered honey bees that caused the bee flu (which then caused the need for a vaccine), why didn't they test them more extensively? And if science is so advanced that they can engineer honey bees, why did they make a pesticide that killed everything else, right along with these engineered bees? Why didn't they make a pesticide that was lethal to the bees only and nothing else? If their science isn't capable of doing that, than they couldn't engineer bees or all of the newfangled medicines and nutrient tablets. And then somehow the beasts' blood has rejuvenation properties? Seriously? That was just randomly thrown in for no real reason. And while honey would most certainly become valuable, in a world where food and water is hard to come by, I think there would be many other things that would be even more valuable.

Writing Style: First-person narration . . . in present tense. Oh, but how I disliked it. Fiona's slowly reoccurring memories are in past tense, which only serves to disrupt the narration, especially since the scenes happen at the most inopportune times (someone bad is going to break down the door, they're being chased, et cetera). On top of this, the Author loves her gross descriptions of the general lack of hygiene among the world. I don't want to know what someone's breath smells like after months without a toothbrush! Or how many times someone vomits, whether or not something smells like urine, that Bowen's blood tastes coppery (yes, Fiona tastes Bowen's blood), or that Bowen's lips taste like salt and buttery goodness (yuck!). I don't want to know about crusty fingernails, sweaty skin, greasy hair, brown teeth, or anything like that!! TOO MUCH DETAIL!!!!

Content: Nothing ever happens, but it's made clear several times what guys will do to anyone they realize is a girl.

Conclusion: The gladiatorial-like fight did nothing to redeem this book; not even a little bit. The only thing it did was prolong my suffering. The arrival and disposal of the villain - Jacoby Soneschen - was random, abrupt, and poorly executed. I cared so little about any of the characters that I wasn't even moved with the final confrontation between Fiona and her twin brother, Jonah, who had already turned beast. The epilogue promises a ridiculous sequel, but that's all right - because I am not reading it. I actually had hopes for Stung. The general premise was kind of interesting, but then I met Fiona and Bowen, and I learned more about the concept, and . . . It was just downhill from there. And by the way - what caused Fiona to have amnesia in the first place?

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, sixteen-and-up.

Others in This Trilogy:


  1. I think you are being a little hard on the characters. Remember that this is dystopian, and even though some things were a little extreeme, this genre of book is. Also, Fiona lost her memory, of course she would be dumb! Overall, I liked how honest your review was- not all reviews are like that. Good job!

    1. I agree that with science fiction/dystopian novels, some belief in reality has to momentarily be put on hold. But there comes a point where a book just asks too much; disbelief can only be suspended for so long and for so much. Memory loss is not an excuse for a complete lack of common sense or survival instinct.

      I do my best to be honest in my reviews and I let everyone else decide if they agree with me or not. :) In the long run, it's just one person's opinion.


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