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. Quoted from Goodreads
Lets start with what I loved: the world building. I found the whole concept to be really intriguing, especially with the diminishing bee population. Basically the bees were dying, so they genetically engineered a way for them to survive, but the modification resulted in a horrible flue (think 1918's Spanish Flu times ten). To counter the flu, they developed a vaccine that eventually resulted in madness and violence, destroying those it thought to protect. That was four years ago. Governments are broken, resulting in sort of city states, and the only safe place is behind the wall. Most of all, Fiona doesn't really remember any of this.
As the book progresses, some of her memories come back to fill in the gaps, but when Fiona wakes up, she doesn't know why her house has been abandoned, why she is immediately attacked by her much older looking twin brother, or what happened to the world she knew. I love this concept. It's half Sleeping Beauty (minus the prince) and half Maze Runner. It's bleak and horrible, but there's enough hope to keep it from ever spilling over into depressing. The best part (besides the mystery of her 4 year coma) is Fiona is thrust into this world with the reader, forced to survive a society she doesn't understand.
After several adventures, she meets up with (read: captured by) Bowen. Here's where I started running into problems. First, Fiona, despite her 17 year old body, is mentally 13. She's been asleep for 4 years and at times really acts like a 13 year old. That part of the characterization is actually great, but it does make Bowen, who complains about the new marriage age (15), because it makes all the available girls (there's 1 girl to 7 guys here) 13 or 14, basically Fiona's age mentally. Yet he never has a problem falling for her.
Plus this is one of the worst cases of insta-love ever. Yes, they knew each other as children, but they were never really friends. Plus, the book itself takes place over 3 or 4 days, so not a lot of time to establish a new relationship. Here's the thing, I actually get why they would fall in "love." He hasn't even seen a girl in over a year, then one from his past appears all helpless and needing him. On her end, she's thrust into this horrible world, when someone she used to know appears and suddenly starts helping her, even if it's only so he had turn her over to the lab for money. I get their instant connection, but it's not build on a foundation that I'm sure will last. Maybe it will, but it went from "Oh, I remember you," to "I love you and will never leave you," way too fast. It left me feeling a bit unsatisfied.
So, all in all, I think Bethany Wiggins created a great world and wrote a story it's really hard to put down. There's always some new peril, betrayal, etc. that keeps you turning pages. She really is a good writer, and Fiona sort of reflects that. She is very much a girl with little combat skills (she can shoot a gun, but that's about it) thrust into a harsh, brutal world, and she acted just like that. My problem is, I really wish she would have stepped up just a bit. While her reactions may have been realistic, part of me wanted her to not be quite so helpless (and then there's one really stupid mistake I wanted to slap her upside the head for).
This was a good 3.5 stars for me. It was a quick read I couldn't put down. Plus, and I'm absolutely not sure here, but it looks like there could be a sequel which may fix some of the problems I had with the first book. Give Fiona a few months to grow up, adjust to the world, and get used to her new, older body, develop a real relationship with Bowen. Anyway, if there is a sequel, I'll absolutely have to check it out. If not, it's actually quite a satisfying end.