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Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Stung (edition 2013)

by Bethany Wiggins

Series: Stung (1)

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1242397,109 (3.74)1
Authors:Bethany Wiggins
Info:Walker Childrens (2013), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 304 pages
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Stung by Bethany Wiggins




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Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

The world has crumbled, and our main character, Fiona, doesn’t know why. She only remembers being 13-years-old, but when she looks around she realizes no one has lived in her house in years and that her reflection looks much easier than it should be. Eventually, she learns there was a bee flu and deadly bees and a bad vaccine and all sorts of things, and that this has pretty much led to a downfall of society as far as she knows it.

Well, first of all, there is almost no world-building in Stung. We get a little background on Fiona’s life. Everything the reader gets to learn about the world in Stung comes from ONE televised interview that takes up two pages at most. It’s basic, but I will say that at least this part makes sense. It turns out the vaccine has turned many children into beasts–an unfortunate side effect–that can’t talk and don’t act like humans at all. The more doses a child has, the more beast-like and un-human they are. Fiona is a level 10, and shouldn’t be as human as she is. That’s the main mystery in the second half of the book, and by far the best part about Stung. Other than this minor world-building, though, there are still so many questions left.

For one, there’s a large human trafficking ring because if a trafficker brings in a certain number of marked beasts or children, they’re paid in ounces of honey, which has become a most precious commodity. My question–WHY? The bees have gone extinct, so honey is valuable. Okay, that sort of makes sense. BUT many other plants and animals have gone extinct and have to be artificially grown. Since those would actually have some sort of nutritional and filling value, WHY is honey the most precious resource? You would think people might be able to sell it for money, but I don’t know because Stung never addresses this question.

Towards the end of the book, there’s another case of logic I could not buy. Fiona has been given the vaccine for the bee flu for ten months–several years ago–when she was thirteen. The same vaccine that makes people beast apparently has healing qualities when taken in small doses, and so Fiona is instructed to. . . KISS someone to transfer trace amounts of the vaccine to him. Or so says the doctor:

" You still carry trace amounts of the vaccine. It has certain advantages in very small doses, certain healing properties.” Doctor Grayson calmly explains. “If you can pass more of them on to Dreyden. . ."

Okay, I do not claim to know much about science. But I have trouble buying the minute traces of the vaccine left over from five years ago can be passed on by kissing would actually help someone who was gravely injured.VACCINES DO NOT WORK LIKE THAT. It's beyond suspension of disbelief at this point. This type of logic comes up time and time again in Stung, from the way Fiona tries to pass for a boy to how the major world-building issues are addressed.

Speaking of Fiona. . . why is she the main character? Oh right, because of something that happens to her. That’s another theme that comes up again and again. Fiona may be one of the most passive characters I’ve ever read. I seriously cannot think of a main character who actually had less of an outcome on the plot than Fiona. The one thing she does that really affects ANYTHING–besides just existing–makes everything worse in a big way. And the thing is, I can’t tell you anything about Fiona. She is a part of the story the plot happens to, and not a person who happens. She has no defining traits except she used to play piano. Is she friendly? Angry? tired? Caring? Ambitious? Daring? No clue. No personality.

The only thing I know about Fiona is that she has the ability to fall in love within a day. She walks into a militia camp, recognizes someone from home, and falls in love. It’s insta-love on both sides, but at least in Dreyden/Bowen’s case, he nursed a crush on Fiona throughout her entire childhood. Which doesn’t make the insta-love okay, but at least more understandable. Fiona seems to just fall in love–or decide she’s in love–because he’s something from her old life. And once they’re together, it becomes mostly about their relationship, which I can’t buy because of the sexism and other problematic elements.

Dreyden’s/Bowen’s nickname for Fiona? Fotard. It was a way to pick on Fiona as children and then becomes a pet name. It’s never said, but I can only assume that Fotard is Fiona retard. Is there really any other childhood insult? This is problematic and honestly, completely unnecessary. That entire problematic element could have just been deleted from the book. It’s small, but irksome. That, however, is nothing compared to the sexism.

Men now outnumber women seven to one, which apparently means that all men are now incapable of looking at a woman without 1)raping her, 2)Selling her to gangs that will rape or trade her, or 3)Taking her for a bride to repopulate society. This is problematic in itself, with the idea that this would just be what happens in a post-apocalyptic world, but fine, I’ll buy into the idea it’s dangerous to be a woman. What really highlights the sexism, though, is Dreyden/Bowen. Since he’s the love interest, he’s clearly not like the other men. He’ll protect Fiona and would never hurt her(supposedly). This is great, right? Well, it would be, and it seems to be, until things like this happen(Fiona has just put on a dress since they’re hiding in an abandon hotel after cleaning up):

“Fo, you’re not safe from me. I’m sorry. It’s just, if I let my guard drop, even for a second. . .” His cheeks flush bright pink and he takes a deep breath. “I won’t be able to keep my hands off you.”

Sorry, you’ve just lost any sympathy as the love interest right there. This isn’t a one-time thing throughout the book. The romance in Stung is incredibly unhealthy because it is not between equals. Time and time again, Dreyden/Bowen orders Fiona around and she just takes it, without ever questioning anything. I definitely understand why a militia guard would fall into the role of giving orders in high-pressure crises, but this happens even in the quiet moments, when Dreyden and Fiona are just talking or hiding. This is another order he gives Fiona soon after he tells–not asks–tells–her to change out of the dress.

"You always have my gun with you. And you always keep one bullet in the magazine. If you get caught, you use it. On yourself. Can you agree to that?”

Look, the world of Stung is obviously dangerous. And while I don’t really take issue with Dreyden giving Fiona the gun in case she decides that death is better than whatever fate, that should be her choice. But because Dreyden can’t handle the thought, he tries to take the choice out of Fiona’s hands. While this isn’t the only time her orders her about, it’s the time I felt really showcased just how demanding he was.

Later on, a doctor talks to Dreyden and Fiona and talks about Dreyden’s psych evaluation:

"Based on your psych analysis, you have a soft spot for helping women."

On it’s on, this sentence wouldn’t be a big deal. But based on the fact this comes after Dreyden has said all that other stuff, it makes me shudder. Helping other people, sure. But helping women, even though you tell Fiona you can’t control yourself around her when she’s wearing a dress? Dreyden is one of those characters who thinks he’s being better than all the other men in the book while still enabling the sexism himself.

Stung had a good premise, but other than that, the story was just too problematic for me to ever invest. The overt sexism and insta-love puts this on the list of my least favorite books I’ve ever read.

( )
  Stormydawnc | Jun 23, 2014 |
Bethany Wiggins' teen dystopian thriller is currently doing fairly well in the U.S. book market, and I can see why. Stung has it all: romance, danger, horror, some elements of fantasy, and an adrenaline-rush of a plot. Stung is aimed at teen readers, but be warned that there is a lot of content that may be inappropriate and/or disturbing to young readers.

While I can appreciate the gripping and suspenseful story, and while I do not consider myself a sensitive or easily offended reader, Stung did leave a bad taste in my mouth for the sole reason of the heroine's nickname.

Fiona, or Fo, is frequently (and affectionately) called Fotard. At first, I was confused and figured, that this is 2014 and the novel is doing well. No way in hell would Wiggins use a word that is so uncomfortably close to the R-word. I was so convinced that this affectionate nickname couldn't possibly be a play on the R-word until someone else pointed it out. Glass shattered. This is disgusting.

People will always find something about a book that offends them. Some people still won't tolerate these subjects when they are handled in a way to encourage readers to consider real issues. Fine. But it's a problem when the subject matter adds NO value and serves no purpose. It could have easily been cut from the book. Moreover, Fo is already a weak heroine who needs a man at her side to pull her out of dangerous situations. Does she really need to be useless AND show terrible self-esteem by choosing a boyfriend who essentially calls her the R-word? Fiona is officially worse than Bella Swan for setting an example for teen girls.

Moving on...

I did like how Wiggins explores the theme of gender in that it doesn't have to be strictly male and female. This was an interesting theme that played out through the character of Arrin. Arrin is a boy, pretending to be a girl, who is pretending to be a boy. Arrin's androgynous features and personality is something he uses as a survival technique by playing society's unfair gender-divide to his advantage. In the end, the mystery of Arrin's gender is moot. Looks can be deceiving, and anyone can be a murderous lunatic.

Overall, the story is thrilling, and there's plenty of action, violence, and disturbing scenes to interest readers who aren't in it for the love story. I'm only giving Stung three stars, because while I can appreciate this book for all its positives, between Fo's nickname and the sad fact that there is not one admirable female character in this male-dominated society of violence, rape, and insanity, I'm tempted to rate it lower.

I will be reading the sequel, Cured, and I'm interested to read anything else by Bethany Wiggins. She's a talented writer and deserves the acclaim she's getting with her highly anticipated Stung novels.

3 Stars ( )
  loveofreading | Jun 18, 2014 |
Stung by Bethany Wiggins is a science fiction dystopian Sleeping Beauty "reimagining."

Fiona wakes up and everything is faded in her abandoned home. The last thing she remembers is turning thirteen. Looking in the mirror, she is now much older than thirteen. What happened? She has a weird tattoo on her hand and something tells her to cover it. A beast comes ripping through the house and she runs away scared. When she is allowed to pass by a house protected by a family and their guns, the daughter Jacqui, gives her food, tells her to cut her hair off, and let her go after seeing she is unmarked. A group of men chase her and a young girl tells her to follow her if she wants to live. She's with Arrin for a short time and then is captured by the militia. The guardian of the militia puts her in manacles to protect the militia from a TEN. They are shocked a ten can talk and converse because most tens are violent beasts who kill. The guardian eventually recognizes her as his classmate who he always liked. He chooses to help her escape and try to get her help before she "turns."

I liked the novel. You find out what happened while she was asleep and you feel for the characters. It was a page turner and was quite exciting. It'll sell well with the kids. The characters are interesting and you easily suspend disbelief. ( )
  acargile | May 11, 2014 |
Imagine what would happen if the extinction of bees really happened. What would our world be like? This book really gets you thinking. With its grit and raw descriptive detail you get thrown into and engulfed in a filthy world that makes you feel like you want to take a bath while reading the book. A nonstop adventure with constant twists and turns make the story such a fast absorbent read. One can almost engulf the entire book in one setting. I really enjoyed getting to know Fiona & Bowen. Fiona wakes from a long sleep to find she is in a different world than she remembers. Struggling to understand her surroundings and survive this new world are almost more than she can handle, but with a little help, she finds her way back home, even if home isn’t exactly what it used to be. She is a modern sleeping beauty who happens upon her prince charming in a most epic way. The two main characters, Fiona and Bowen, are empathetic and compassionate despite what has happened to them. They are not hardened to the harsh realities of their new world, but instead never give up in seeking a cure. From the epilogue, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a sequel coming and looks like there is one…“Cured” by Bethany Wiggins. Great book! ( )
  megemeg | Feb 26, 2014 |
I must be reading too many of this genre because I found myself wondering why every dystopian society degenerates into packs of wild gangs! But having said that, this is a good example of the genre - the story is tight, the scope is small enough to be done well, and the characters are likable. Even the things that seem to coincidental end up being explained which I liked. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Jan 13, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802734189, Hardcover)

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 wrist-a black oval with five marks on either side-that she doesn't remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. And she's right. When the honeybee population collapsed, a worldwide pandemic occurred and the government tried to bio-engineer a cure. Only the solution was deadlier than the original problem-the vaccination turned people into ferocious, deadly beasts who were branded as a warning to un-vaccinated survivors. Key people needed to rebuild society are protected from disease and beasts inside a fortress-like wall. But Fiona has awakened branded, alone-and on the wrong side of the wall . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:41:54 -0400)

When a vaccine to save endangered bees causes their sting to turn children into ferocious killer beasts, the uninfected build a wall to keep the beasts out, but Fiona wakes up on the wrong side of the wall.

(summary from another edition)

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