Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review: When She Woke

Author: Hillary Jordan
Publish date: September 2011
Source: Purchased 

"Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family. But after she’s convicted of murder, she awakens to a nightmarish new life. She finds herself lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes—criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime—is a sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red for the crime of murder. The victim, says the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a fierce and forbidden love. 

A powerful reimagining of The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke is a timely fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of the not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated, and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith and love.

I heard about this book a few months ago and thought it sounded really interesting. I read The Scarlet Letter in high school and HATED it. Nathaniel Hawthorne's language and writing style was really difficult for me to understand and I thought a futuristic retelling sounded pretty good. I ended up enjoying it, despite a few parts I found incredulous.

The scariest and creepiest part about the whole book for me was the setting. When She Woke takes place in the not too distant future and I am terrified that our world could someday be much like what Ms. Jordan imagined for her novel. There was an STD epidemic which rendered many women sterile and led to abortion being completely illegal, punishable by years in prison. In the book, the blame for everything is on women, which made me angry, yet I can sadly imagine people thinking that was perfectly reasonable. Drove me crazy, but I couldn't stop reading it!

As the novel progresses, Hannah grows and realizes that what she was always taught about life was not true, in terms of morals and faith. She doesn't grow as much as I wanted her to, but she gets herself out of scary situations and crazy places. I was rooting for her the whole time, although I didn't always agree with her choices. The ending happened a little too quickly for my tastes, but I would still recommend this book just for people to understand how easily the setting could become our terrible reality.

Buy the Kindle ebook here (only $1.99!)

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