When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan
When She Woke
by Hillary Jordan
My favorite book of the year so far, hands down. When She Woke is a modern-day Scarlett Letter with the feel of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. As was The Handmaid’s Tale, When She Woke is highly unique and addicting—impossible to put down; in other words, plan on losing a night’s sleep over this one. It definitely has a futuristic feel, though not too far into the future, and with a high credibility factor built in. You will read this one with a sense of, “I can see this happening, though I hope to God it doesn’t.”
Hannah Payne is the heroine, and I’m guessing it’s no small coincidence that her name puts the reader in mind of Hester Pryne in The Scarlett Letter. She falls into that age-old trap of falling in love with her Reverend, having an affair with him, getting pregnant, and then refusing to point the finger that would scandalize him. The Reverend—surprise, surprise—is not all that pious, at least not when it comes to admitting his shortcomings, and his star in televangelism will continue to rise throughout the story, until….
Nope, not giving you anymore than that. You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out if he’ll fall or, perhaps, just stumble.
When the book opens, Hannah is just waking up from a procedure whereby she was “chromed,” or injected with dye. She is now red all over, and the T.V. cameras are rolling, broadcasting her crime to the world. She will spend her first month as a chrome in solitary confinement under the watchful eye of the nation. After that, she will be released into society, where she will be a pariah, and whatever happens to her, so be it. Red is the color of murderers, and Hannah had the gall to have an abortion. And, since she refuses to identify the baby’s father, she will remain red for many, many years…if she survives.
There are other chromes: yellow for misdemeanor offenders (drugs, theft, etc.); green for felony offenders; and blue, worse of all, for pedophiles, who, not surprisingly, have the lowest survival rate once they’re released into society. Unfortunately for Hannah, red is red, whether you are a cold-blooded serial killer or a scared young girl, who felt she had no other choice than to protect her lover’s identity by having an abortion.
Join Hannah on her journey into a “new-and-improved” society, where chroming is the answer to over-crowded jails, and where groups like The Fists take vigilantism to a whole new–acceptable, more or less–level. One thing she knows for sure, she can’t trust anybody, and a friend today could turn into her worse enemy tomorrow, depending on the stakes. Even her own family, with the exception of her father, can’t be counted on for any kind help. Though her father, too, will have his limits, as he’s under the watchful eye of her bitter, vengeful mother.
When She Woke is the ultimate in cautionary, big-brother-is-watching type tales. Hopefully, it won’t spark any ideas for future conservative leaders. Meanwhile, in Hannah, Hillary Jordan has created a heroine who is easy to relate to, as she is all that is brave, sympathetic and sane in a world gone mad. The way I see it, there’s very little choice for you here: you need to read When She Woke to find out Hannah’s fate. You must be curious, or you won’t have read this review to the end, right? Trust me, it’s worth losing a night’s sleep over.