Friday, September 16, 2011

When She Woke

by:  Hilary Jordan
published by:  Algonquin Books
publish date:  October 4, 2011

Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family, but after her arrest, she awakens to a nightmare: she is 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 new and sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. The victim, according to 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’s shared a fierce and forbidden love.

When She Woke is a fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future—where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated 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 path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.

The first thing I want to comment on is the cover art of this book.  I got an ARC and I really hope the final copies are something close, because it is striking.  The red of her skin is a red metallic that is gorgeous.  Kudos to the designer, because it is outstanding.

Anybody has read The Scarlet Letter will instantly recognize this modern day retelling.  I never got the "rip off" feeling though, I felt like this story was paying homage to Hawthorne. 

The whole premise of Chroming was a unique idea and Jordan answered the questions that popped up in my mind about the process.   The reason it came about was because America went through an economic depression and in order to save money this process was developed as a punishment instead of incarcerating prisoners.  I'd think in a way we've started dipping our toes in the water of this idea with the Sex Offender Registry.

This book however was mainly about abortion and the mixture of religion and government.  Those are some hot button issues so I can see this being a controversial book, but the way that it was written I can see it appealing to people who fall on both side of the issue.  It's also an adult book, but it had a bit of a YA feel to it, maybe due to the naivete of Hannah?  While I wouldn't recommend it to younger teens, I think it would be ok for mature teens that are understanding of the issues.  (hint would be really awesome for a compare and contrast term paper with The Scarlet Letter)

1 comment:

The Happy Booker said...

Great review. I am going to be reading this one shortly and you're right, the cover is gorgeous. I find the concept fascinating, even with the controversial subject matter. I can't wait to read it myself!