Surely I must soon grow sick of dystopian worlds and apocalyptic visions. Well, not as long as writers keep feeding my habit with books of this caliber. Why am I continuously drawn to stories involving the utter destruction or transformation of humanity? This phenomenon isn’t limited to the fantasies of misanthropic yams! Look around. Zombies have eaten your televisions and children battle to the death, future underfed gladiators, on your movie screens.

I think the allure isn’t in the gore of the undead or in the shock of watching child violence used as a marketing ploy. (Or in the irony of multimillion dollar films cashing in on children who kill each other – while teaching us a Very Important Lesson about a sick time to come in which corporations and the government cash in on….oh right.. children killing each other). Partially, it’s the transcendence and rebellion of saying to an always uncertain future: “Screw you, we will survive.” But mostly what keeps our imaginations sparkling with possibility is the idea of a future washed clean. A blank slate where what you now become is purely up to you. If you were a coward you may now be brave. If you were once poor, you can now live well, pillaging  what the former rich have left behind. Underachievers become leaders– and sometimes men who were once thought good show their true selves and get to live their deepest fantasies of becoming the villain. No one remembers you, and thus you are free of all expectation, or lack thereof, that once tethered you to the ground.

In Cured, the second book in a series by Bethany Wiggins, the world has grown silent with the death of the honeybees. I’m guessing all insects and other pollinators are included in this devastation, since the book is fairly lacking in explanation as to how we reached this point. I generally would not start reading partway through a series, but when I picked this up it was so compelling that I decided to continue. The lack of information doesn’t detract from the story, in fact it merely made me hungry to immediately find the first book and devour it.

From what I gather, a vaccination was given to children in the first book, which over time instead of helping them survive, turned them into hunger-crazed, cannibalistic beasts with super-human strength. I also see that the first book was written from the perspective of Fiona, while this book’s protagonist Jack was barely glimpsed.

Jack is a sixteen year old girl forced to further emaciate herself in an already starving world in order to pass as a 12 year old boy. Something I loved about this story: Jacqui was not some supermodel pretty, bad-ass chick with a bow or some Ellen Ripley mini-me when the world fell to pieces. She was a chubby little girl, content to bake bread and dream of her first kiss. The violation of Jacqui being stripped of her curves, her long locks, all of her soft girliness, is palpable.

I did have some issues with the storyline. The instant love-connection between Jack and Kevin was particularly bothersome. His character verged on stalker creepiness to me. Oh, all women are a precious commodity, therefore I must protect you by locking you here in my lair away from other men! Because those guys out there? Are just filthy rapists. While my burning passion to deflower you- that’s pure. The peril Jack puts herself and all of the group in at the end of the book could have so easily been avoided if Kevin had only treated Jack as an equal. Instead we get this silly paternalistic “don’t worry your pretty little head there darlin’, us menfolk will sort this out” nonsense.

Another issue I had was the seeming lack of homosexual relations in the future. It seemed laughable at best to me that a huge group of sex-starved outlaws would see a nubile young boy as dog food instead of a potential sex-toy. I’m willing to overlook this, however, considering the age range the book was written for- though the author had no qualms implying and  invoking heterosexual rape as the reason Jack must never be discovered as a girl.

These are small annoyances though, and only show that I was invested enough in the characters to care about their actions. On the whole, I found the  storyline captivating and was left wanting more.





2 Thoughts on ““Real Beauty Can’t Be Seen.”

  1. ellen beck on July 8, 2014 at 3:40 am said:

    The book doesnt sound too bad. I like the cover and admittedly I will read something based on that alone only to find it stinks. I think the loss of the bees would keep me reading although I do find it strange if “Jack” is being a 12 yr old ‘boy’ (even though she is 16) wouldnt Kevin be considered gay if he is seen with hiim? Or is the fact Jack is female remaain hidden somehow?

    • Jenna on July 8, 2014 at 9:42 am said:

      The bees were the most interesting part- I honestly just wanted to hear more about what happened to them. I never did read the rest of the series and I think the relationship between Jack/Jaqui and Kevin was a big reason. I was avoiding spoilers when I wrote this, but there’s a convoluted backstory in which Kevin brings secret messages to her family while disguised as a filthy beggar, and has basically been watching/stalking/in love with Jaqui for years without her knowledge. When she meets him later in the book as his non-filthy “real” self, she doesn’t know it’s the same guy or that he’s been pining away for her, or why this total stranger somehow knows she’s not a boy, yet she mystically falls instantly in love with him. It isn’t SUPPOSED to be creepy in the book, but it sure felt creepy to me. Oh and he swoops her off to his underground bunker in the woods and locks her inside to, uh, protect her. So there’s not a huge worry about anyone seeing them together.


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