Series: Stung # 1
Published by Walker Childrens on April 2, 2013
Genres: Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction
There is no cure for being stung.
Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered—her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right hand—a black oval with five marks on either side—that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. She’s right.
Those bearing the tattoo have turned into mindless, violent beasts that roam the streets and sewers, preying upon the unbranded while a select few live protected inside a fortress-like wall, their lives devoted to rebuilding society and killing all who bear the mark.
Now Fiona has awakened branded, alone—and on the wrong side of the wall.
One of the first thing she notices is a strange tattoo on her hand; how did THAT get there? Oddly, she’d seen it on Jonah’s hand, too. It’s not immediately clear what the mark indicates, but we know it’s not good when Fiona discovers it’s known as “The Mark of the Beast.” She wanders through a deserted Denver neighborhood, seeing only snarling, snapping dogs until…a group of men pointing assault rifles at her. A child appears and escorts Fiona underground through a manhole cover to safety. The child, a snarky girl named Arrin, demands payment for her trouble in the form of precious food or honey, and Fiona realizes again that this is not the world she remembers.
An exciting opening to this book quickly starts to fall apart, despite an interesting story that had a lot of potential. Arrin advises Fiona to look like a boy in order to stay safe. This involves chopping off her hair and binding her breasts. And…it works. I had a hard time with this. I’m going to guess that at least 90% of teenage girls and women will still look female, even with short hair. Maybe Fiona falls into that (generous) 10% who don’t? The imperative for Fiona to pass as a male was a major focal point of the book that quickly became tiresome. I understand the point that Wiggins was making; it’s similar to what we hear about the danger a population of long-term jailed men could pose to a woman, but it was referenced so many times that I lost interest.
I felt very strongly for Fiona’s romantic interest, Dreyden. Unfortunately, those feelings were all negative. Is it ok that he was abusive towards Fiona when he believed she was a young boy but suddenly turned nice when he realized the truth? Not in my book. He is two completely different characters – a disgusting, violent bully one moment and then suddenly gallant and protective the next. This is what I refer to as an author switcheroo, and I didn’t buy it. Dreyden tells Fiona at one point to shut up, and there’s not a bit of reaction or response from Fiona. I don’t care how many zombie-ish people or evil men were after me, but if someone told me to shut up, my reaction would be something a bit more than silence. Was it supposed to be sign he’s a powerful, take-charge guy? Incidentally, later on, another character also tells Fiona to shut up, but by that point, I was ready for her to shut up, too. The blindingly quick progression of this romance is hard to believe, and when the first “I love you” comes, you might scratch your head as I did, wondering how Fiona and Dreyden suddenly got to that point.
The biggest flaw of the book, and the hardest one to overlook, is Fiona. She is not a heroine who inspires much sympathy or compassion. The phrase that comes to mind is wet noodle; she’s very bland, not memorable, and nearly devoid of personality. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to describe any of Fiona’s personality traits. Picture Bella Swan, and then strip away almost every ounce of her already thread-bare charisma. Now you’ve got a good picture of Fiona.
Random note: There was SO MUCH blood in this book. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind a little (or a lot) of blood, but Fiona and Dreyden spent so much time bleeding from various injuries, both big and small, that I wondered how they had the energy to walk around, let alone engage in all of the vigorous fighting.
Eye Roll-Inducing Twist # 1: A character states a revelation about Fiona 3/4 of the way through, everyone (including Fiona herself) was shocked. I was thinking, “Wait…didn’t we already know this?”
Eye Roll-Inducing Twist # 2: A twist involving a secondary character that had no purpose I could discern other than as an attempt to add shock value. No, I was not expecting it, but I also didn’t care because it had no impact on the plot.
Melodramatic quote alert: “I’ll come for you as soon as I can. I promise. Just…don’t give up hope. And fight to stay alive if you have to. Fight!”
Review posted at Goodreads