Cured (Stung, Book 2)
Bloomsbury (AU: 1st March 2014; US: 4th March 2014; UK: 13th March 2014)
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I’ve forgotten most of Stung. There was bee flu, but the vaccine turned people into “beasts”. The population is low now – due to lack of crops (no bee pollination, or there’s killer-bee population), bees killing people, or people killing people? This isn’t really explained in Cured; it’s more “this is how things are now – deal with it”.
The author succeeds in creating a genuinely dystopian world. In this rampant rape culture, females are particularly sought after now that a hundred captives of raiders have been mysteriously freed. To be safe, Jacqui lives as a boy: Jack. (Is this before or after she and her mother are denied access to the walled city because they’re “obese”? Fat-shaming, y’all.)
Jacqui is presented as a twelve-year-old boy. Thus a particular scene, wherein a raider handles her neck, seems like logic-fail. During puberty, a male’s laryngeal prominence (Adam’s apple) enlarges considerably. And when does puberty hit? Twelve years old. The age “Jack” is supposed to be. And even though the raider thoroughly feels up her neck, he doesn’t seem to notice the lack of laryngeal prominence.
Speaking of nonsense: the romance. In this fictional world, m/m sexuality seems non-existent. Without female captives, the raiders have become less violent due to lack of rape opportunities, and they apparently haven’t turned to raping males. (Rape may be about power rather than sexuality in the real world, but in this book it’s definitely more about sex.) It would’ve been interesting had Kevin not known Jack’s true gender, so he could question his sexuality, but no. The author shuts the door on that, and instead constructs an eye-rolling, weak story of Kevin having loved Jacqui long before he encounters her.
Another missed opportunity for internal conflict involves Jacqui’s brother. Had he actually turned out to be bad (as opposed to just pretending), Jacqui would’ve had to do some deep soul-searching. Would she have been able to forgive him? Would she still love him, knowing he was such an awful person? But this doesn’t happen, and therefore we don’t get the serious thinking.
Happy endings in dystopia feel so false, and kind of insulting to the reader. We can handle reading the dark stuff; that’s why we read dystopias. But to chicken out, and have the main character remain unscathed, with all her loved ones alive? Go hard or go home, writers – don’t just have your story play pretend.