Release Date: April 2, 2013
Page Count: 304 pgs
Published by: Walker Childrens
Source: PB ARC provided by publisher
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.
Stung was an intense, action-packed debut that kept me on the edge of my seat. The adrenaline rushes and moments of suspense were nonstop thanks to the horror and violence of the marked beasts, the constant threat of capture or exposure and never knowing who should be trusted.
The protagonist is a young girl who wakes up in a grown woman's body despite having no memories of her life past the age of 13. She doesn't know where her family is or why her house appears to be abandoned. Her only certainty is that there is danger in exposing the strange mark on her hand.
From the moment Fiona awakens she is attacked, held at gun point, chased by armed men and dragged through the sewers by an untrustworthy guide whose gender remains in question.
She quickly finds herself captured by the militia and her captor, Bowen, turns out to be the younger brother of the boy she used to spy on next door. But discovering that she has this connection to him doesn't change the fact that she is a level ten, the most dangerous and feared of the marked beasts. Bowen continues to feel threatened by her and often treats her with open hostility despite her lacking the symptoms that a typical level ten would possess.
As the story progresses, we are slowly given more details about the post-apocalyptic world that Fiona is now living in. We learn that for every 7 men there is 1 woman and on the unmarked side of the wall young girls marry at an early age in an attempt to rebuild the population. We also learn more about the Fecs and beasts and what the various levels refer to. But most importantly, we learn the reason why Fiona is so valuable that people are desperate to possess her and why life-changing rewards are being offered in exchange for her capture.
I really enjoyed Fiona's character from the very beginning despite her occasional moments of immaturity and a few questionable decisions that were made. In her mind she is still a 13 year old kid. She wakes up in a world that she's not familiar with and is without any sort of parental guidance or information about what to expect from the outside world. Although I've read some reviews that disagree, I felt like it would be unrealistic for a young musical prodigy who is lost and terrified to become a street smart ninja overnight.
A slow romance begins to build throughout the story as Fiona develops feelings for the only person who has offered her kindness and comfort and reassurance since waking inside of her abandoned home. But this is really only a small part of the novel and while I liked both characters, I'm glad that their romance didn't become the main focus of the story.
Stung concludes in a way that suggests it could possibly be a stand alone. But while visiting the author's website I discovered that there will be a sequel titled Cured that will release in 2014. I still have questions about a couple of the events that occurred during Stung and I'm hoping maybe some of them will be answered in the second installment.
Overall, this was a fast-paced, page-turning debut that I read all in one night. I was more than happy to miss several hours of sleep just to reach the ending. I would recommend this debut to any young adult fans who enjoy action-packed post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels.