Thursday, April 30, 2015

Book Review: Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Imagine being 13 and waking up in your room to find it vastly different than you remember it, looking like it's been abandoned for years. None of your family members are around, you are completely alone. Then you glance in the mirror and realize that you don't even recognize yourself; you look like your older sister, and you have a strange spider-like tattoo on your hand. Finally, you are attacked by a feral human being, who looks like your twin brother, but older than you remember him.

That's how Fiona Tarsis's day starts in Stung, and it just gets worse from there.

In a crowded post-apocalyptic YA fiction field, Wiggins has managed to come up with a few new twists.  Honeybees were going extinct, which would lead to widespread food shortages and other tragedies, so the government genetically modified honeybees to be more resilient.  Unfortunately, these new superbees killed off the other bees AND their sting produced flu-like symptoms, aggression, and death in humans. So a vaccine was developed and a potent pesticide was used to kill the new superbees. And both of those methods backfired.  The pesticide not only decimated the entire bee population, it killed other insects, animals, and plant life as well. And the vaccine, only administered to the best and brightest because of the limited supply, ended up turning those injected with it into raving, feral beasts. A few select people - all young, healthy, and unvaccinated - are safe inside "the wall", a city controlled by a tyrannous governor, but others have to live outside the wall, scraping by with a meager existence risking the roving bands of scavengers and the vaccinated who haven't "turned" yet.

Fiona is a sympathetic protagonist, particularly at first as she's trying to navigate this completely foreign environment, not to mention discovering that she's lost four years of her life. Her disorientation and desperation come through loud and clear, but eventually they wear a little thin as time and after time she proves to be utterly incapable of assisting others in keeping herself alive and requires rescue. (And then **SPOILER ALERT** to cap it all off, she shoots her one friend/ally/love interest, severely injuring him! I mean, really!) Her one real contribution - no joke - is kissing the love interest, because the traces of the vaccine that are still in her system help strengthen his immune system and allow him to heal faster.


While I appreciated that there wasn't a love triangle in this post-apocalyptic YA story, I had a hard time buying the romance that blossomed so suddenly between her and Bowen. It seemed less a factor of real love than adrenalin and a savior/savee dynamic, an attachment formed by familiarity in a setting where absolutely everything else is unfamiliar.

One repellent aspect of this post-apocalyptic world stems from the fact that men now outnumber women seven to one. Outside the wall, women and girls cut their hair, bind their chests, and mimic male behaviors and mannerisms due to the ever-present threat of kidnapping and rape. This danger is alluded to several times, so be aware if younger ones are reading it that may need some further discussion.

Stung wasn't my favorite, mostly because I don't care much for essentially helpless female protagonists, but it's a page-turner where the action keeps flowing and the story is well-told. Not a bad afternoon's distraction.

by Bethany Wiggins
ISBN: 9780802734181
Buy it from Amazon here: (hardcover, paperback, ebook)
Find it at a local independent bookseller.
Look it up on Goodreads.
Check it out at your local library (find the nearest one here).

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