Posted by Book Mavens on April 19th, 2012
Title: When She Woke
Author: Hillary Jordan
Publisher: Algonquin Books, 2011
Summary/Review:In the not-so-distant future, only the most dangerous criminals serve their sentences behind bars. All others are made to serve their time on the outside, living among the rest of society but with one big difference. In order to readily identify them as criminals, they are injected with a virus to change the color of their skin. Most of these “Chromes” are Yellows, serving short sentences for misdemeanors. Child molesters are Blues but they don’t fare so well out in society so they are rarely seen. Hannah Payne is a Red. She has been convicted of killing her unborn child. Dangers to Hannah and those like her come in many forms. Religious fanatics and vigilantes have them in their sights. How will she ever survive her 16 year sentence?
More than a modern “Scarlet Letter”, this is a very thought provoking and riveting story. Full of controversial topics, I’m sure it will lead to some interesting conversations. Adding to the disturbing nature of “When She Woke” is the realization that we can see glimpses of the fanaticism portrayed in this story just by watching CNN.
Recommended by: Sue B, Circulation Coordinator
A second look: If Margaret Atwood had written The Scarlet Letter, it would read like this book. This is a slightly futuristic story where the Religious Right has taken over so that, for instance, abortion is legally considered murder. Not only that, viruses have been developed that produce changes in skin color. Yellow for misdemeanor, blue for child molester, red for murderer – a clever solution to prison overcrowding. Criminals are released into society to fend for themselves in a world that can see what you’ve done.
Our heroine woke to find herself chromed red after being convicted of murdering her unborn child. She keeps her lover’s name a secret, protecting this powerful and well-respected man. She soon discovers that life on the outside is fraught with danger – even from those who claim they will protect her.
Recommended by: Lauren, Reference Assistant
Who Might Like This?: Fans of dystopian novels, science fiction.
If you liked this, try this: If you’d like to read more Hillary Jordan, try out her incredibly popular “Mudbound”. If you’re interested in dystopian novels, “1984″ by George Orwell or “Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood are two classics. For younger readers, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins or “The Giver” by Lois Lowry both depict dystopias. If you liked the book overall, check out “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne or one of the many other books based off this classic.
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