Cured, a sequel to Stung and a Whitney Award finalist in YA speculative fiction this year, centers around a teenage girl named Jacqui Bloom.
Jacqui and her family have been living outside the wall for years. Denied entrance to the safety of the city during the worst of the epidemic and destruction, they've survived by being constantly on guard and bargaining for supplies and goods with those who come seeking her father’s skills as a dentist.
Jacqui lives as Jack, a boy, to avoid the attention of the bandits who kidnap and rape women and girls, unable to leave the property and chafing at the restrictions and fear she lives with on a daily basis. A brief encounter in Stung with an old classmate Fiona starts the wheels in her mind turning.
When Fiona’s mother turned 55, she was exiled from the city as was the law under Governor Soneschen. She turned to Jacqui's family for help, as she and Jacqui's mother had been good friends. Jacqui's older brother, Dean, offered to help her reach the safety of a city rumored to be in the Rocky Mountains, but he never returned.
And Jacqui wants to know why.
Now that there is a cure, she sets out for the city to enlist Fiona’s help in finding her brother and Fiona’s mother. Fiona, her boyfriend Bowen, and her brother Jonah join Jacqui on the quest to track them down. Along the way they are betrayed by raiders, meet a vagabond who is more than he seems, and encounter more dangers than they could have imagined.
As with Stung the action is non-stop with one obstacle after another. The world building is well done, even if that world is misogynistic in the extreme. Again, rape is an ever-present threat for the women in the story and younger readers may need some discussion and context for that topic.
I’ll freely admit that I liked Jacqui more than I liked Fiona. She seemed scrappier, more capable, and while there was still a love interest, it developed more out of mutual admiration and affection than adrenalin and circumstance.
A great deal of the novel is told in flashbacks which I felt communicated backstory and motivation effectively without interrupting the flow of the narrative. There are sufficient plot twists that the story doesn't get too predictable or stale, and though it’s sometimes are to tell friend from foe, all comes right in the end.
Like Stung, Cured is a heart-racing, page-turning, action-packed entertaining diversion for an(other) afternoon.
by Bethany Wiggins
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