Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Title: When She Woke
Author: Hillary Jordan
Genre: Dystopia
Subject: Religion, Feminism
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release date: October 2011
Length: 344 pages
I got this book: Bought it

From Goodreads:
"I am red now. It was her first thought of the day, every day, surfacing after a few seconds of fogged, blessed ignorance and sweeping through her like a wave, breaking in her breast with a soundless roar. Hard on its heels came the second wave, crashing into the wreckage left by the first: he is gone.

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."

Personal opinion:
The first thing that struck me about Hannah is how incredibly naive she was. She is supposed to be 26, but sounded more like someone who is 18. This is explanable because she was raised so sheltered and really didn't know much. But still I kept forgetting she was well into her adult years. Other than that I didn't have problems with Hannah as a character. She grew to be a strong person throughout the story and I liked to read about that progress. I was impressed by the way the various stages of the story were set and how I also get to know about Hannah's past without it being confusing. It is a strong story that has a nice balance between story wise events and character building. I would recommend this to people who want to dip into the dystopia genre for the first time, but it is also great for people who have read a lot in the genre already because it stays away from the usual dystopia cliches.

Purchase links: The Book Depository
Challenges: Wishlist Challenge
Other reviews: Leeswammes' Blog, At home with books,
If you have reviewed this book and want your link here, please leave a comment with the link, and I will add it :)


  1. Good to see that you liked this. I completely agree about the immaturity of Hannah. It was difficult to remember how old she really was.

    Mudbound is another book by Hilary Jordan that I've read. I liked it even more, but it's completely different, not dystopia at all.

    1. I have Mudbound on my wishlist after reading about it on your blog. It sounds interesting, so I hope to read it soon(ish).