Friday, April 5, 2013

Review and Giveaway of Stung by Bethany Wiggins


Title: Stung     
Author: Bethany Wiggins
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2013
Publisher: Walker Children's
Source: Received for review

Back Cover

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.

In a Sentence

Though Stung took place in an engrossing, unique, and creative post-apocalyptic world, the characters populating its pages seemed mediocre at best.

My Thoughts

When I was offered a chance to review Stung for this blog tour, I had to accept. As many of my frequent visitors know, I've been on a seldom-broken hiatus for the majority of this semester due to grad school, teaching, and some ongoing medical issues. In spite of this, I couldn't pass up the chance to look at a promising post-apocalyptic YA release, considering that post-apocalyptic literature is one of my favorite genres.

In some ways, I was really pleased with how Stung turned out. Wiggins took an idea that many of us are familiar with in modern times (the mysterious case of the disappearing bees),  and imagined what would happen to humankind in the future if this problem escalated. The result is the complete breakdown of society and government as we know it, and as fans of dystopian and post-apocalyptic lit. can probably guess, when safety and order go out the window, the rest of our collective sanity tends to go with it. 

Anyways, I really did enjoy the world-building. Where Stung fell flat for me was in its characters. Many of them seemed to only exist on one, or maybe two levels, and for those of you who know me well, I like my characters to be multifaceted--to be complex and well-developed. In Stung, I felt that the characters were kind of cookie-cutter. Other than the world that they lived in, the characters seemed like they could have been pulled from a number of other books that I've read in the genre.Another issue I had while reading Stung is that I felt as if the creative potential that existed within this broken, despotic world was sacrificed (or at least reduced) in order to throw a love story in the mix, and not an especially original love story at that.

Finally, I found myself being a little skeptical of some of the ways men were described as a result of the breakdown of society. In this new world, there are seven men alive for every one woman, so the continuing existence of humanity is at risk. However, the reason why women are so much more rare than men is never really explained, and it seems like, without having a steady source of womanly love at their beck and call, a large percentage of the male population turn into chauvinists and rapists. Here's just one quote that bothered me:

"But that's not the main problem."

"Then what is?"

"They know you're a girl."

I frown, confused.

"Most of them haven't set eyes on a woman in more than a year, Fo. Let alone a young, pretty woman." **

And that's just the description of the guys in the militia. Let's not even talk about the ones who exist outside the government (they're flat out described as rapists and murderers). Even the main male character, Bowen, is described as having some of these latent urges (though he vehemently struggles against them)

"No," he says. "You cannot wear that." 

I look down at the sundress. "What's wrong with it?"

He drags a hand over his weary face. "You look like a . . . woman. It's not safe." 

I think of the raiders and look back down at the dress. "When we leave, I'll change," I say. "But for now, it's comfortable. I feel like the old me." 

. . . "Fo, you're not safe from me. . . . Fo, I'm a man, and you're a beautiful woman. But you're also a Level Ten, and when I look at you, especially when you're dressed like this, I can't think straight, because even though my brain tells me you're the most dangerous thing I've ever encountered, my heart . . . my body--" **

Furthermore, Bowen, being the embodiment of virtuous manhood, develops a protector complex for Fiona that, wait for it, turns into love, true love. Fiona rarely shows the capacity (or even desire) to be the agent of her own life, and relies almost completely upon Bowen not only for her safety, but for food, water, and shelter as well. 

Don't get me wrong, I think that Wiggins displayed a lot of talent in the way she crafted the world of Stung. I flew through this book in a matter of hours despite my issues with the characterization and stereotypes mentioned above. After finishing the book though, I was left feeling unsatisfied. However, if Stung sounds like your kind of thing, don't let me discourage you. Plenty of other readers have really enjoyed it, as you can tell by reading other reviews on Goodreads

**Quotes taken from e-ARC and may not be the same as in final copy.**


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