This review and others are posted at Read, Rinse, Repeat.
The opening of Stung is very similar to the recent Pretty Girl-13; a young girl suddenly finds herself at her home, seeking her parents, with a memory loss of several years. Both girls believe themselves to be thirteen and are surprised to see their "new" bodies. But whereas Angie from Pretty Girl-13 falls into the shocked and loving arms of her parents, Fiona falls out of a bathroom window as she struggles to escape a crazed, animalistic man who attempts to capture her. When she stares into the man's wild eyes, she realizes it's her twin brother, Jonah.
One of the first thing she notices is a strange tattoo on her hand; how did THAT get there? Oddly, she'd seen it on Jonah's hand, too. It's not immediately clear what the mark indicates, but we know it's not good when Fiona discovers it's known as "The Mark of the Beast." She wanders through a deserted Denver neighborhood, seeing only snarling, snapping dogs until...a group of men pointing assault rifles at her. A child appears and escorts Fiona underground through a manhole cover to safety. The child, a snarky girl named Arrin, demands payment for her trouble in the form of precious food or honey, and Fiona realizes again that this is not the world she remembers.
An exciting opening to this book quickly starts to fall apart, despite an interesting story that had a lot of potential. Arrin advises Fiona to look like a boy in order to stay safe. This involves chopping off her hair and binding her breasts. And...it works. I had a hard time with this. I'm going to guess that at least 90% of teenage girls and women will still look female, even with short hair. Maybe Fiona falls into that (generous) 10% who don't? The imperative for Fiona to pass as a male was a major focal point of the book that quickly became tiresome. I understand the point that Wiggins was making; it's similar to what we hear about the danger a population of long-term jailed men could pose to a woman, but it was referenced so many times that I lost interest.
I felt very strongly for Fiona's romantic interest, Dreyden. Unfortunately, those feelings were all negative. Is it ok that he was abusive towards Fiona when he believed she was a young boy but suddenly turned nice when he realized the truth? Not in my book. He is two completely different characters - a disgusting, violent bully one moment and then suddenly gallant and protective the next. This is what I refer to as an author switcheroo, and I didn't buy it. Dreyden tells Fiona at one point to shut up, and there's not a bit of reaction or response from Fiona. I don't care how many zombie-ish people or evil men were after me, but if someone told me to shut up, my reaction would be something a bit more than silence. Was it supposed to be sign he's a powerful, take-charge guy? Incidentally, later on, another character also tells Fiona to shut up, but by that point, I was ready for her to shut up, too. The blindingly quick progression of this romance is hard to believe, and when the first "I love you" comes, you might scratch your head as I did, wondering how Fiona and Dreyden suddenly got to that point.
The biggest flaw of the book, and the hardest one to overlook, is Fiona. She is not a heroine who inspires much sympathy or compassion. The phrase that comes to mind is wet noodle; she's very bland, not memorable, and nearly devoid of personality. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to describe any of Fiona's personality traits. Picture Bella Swan, and then strip away almost every ounce of her already thread-bare charisma. Now you've got a good picture of Fiona.Random note:
There was SO MUCH blood in this book. Don't get me wrong - I don't mind a little (or a lot) of blood, but Fiona and Dreyden spent so much time bleeding from various injuries, both big and small, that I wondered how they had the energy to walk around, let alone engage in all of the vigorous fighting.Eye Roll-Inducing Twist # 1:
A character states a revelation about Fiona 3/4 of the way through, everyone (including Fiona herself) was shocked. I was thinking, "Wait...didn't we already know this?"Eye Roll-Inducing Twist # 2:
A twist involving a secondary character that had no purpose I could discern other than as an attempt to add shock value. No, I was not expecting it, but I also didn't care because it had no impact on the plot.Melodramatic quote alert:
"I'll come for you as soon as I can. I promise. Just...don't give up hope. And fight to stay alive if you have to. Fight!"