Thursday, 19 June 2014

Review: Stung by Bethany Wiggins

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.

Summary: 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 neighbourhood 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...

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. 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. 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

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