Wednesday, September 07, 2011

WHEN SHE WOKE by Hilary Jordan

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I love my dystopian cautionary tales and this one fits right into that genre.  I would describe this book when doing reader advisory as THE SCARLET LETTER meets THE HANDMAID'S TALE. Hannah Payne (a not-so-subtle play on Hester Prynne)  awakens to find herself red.  Fire engine red from head to toe. Hannah has done the unthinkable.  She aborted her baby.  Now society demands that she pay by having her skin color genetically altered so that everyone will know her shame. In this society of the not-so-distant future, non-violent criminals have their skin color genetically altered for a predetermined length of time and are released back into society after an initial 30 day incarceration where their every move is recorded and televised so the whole world can see how they are dealing with their new lives. These "Chromes" carry a visible statement of their crime wherever they go and have become a new ghettoized class of people.   Because Hannah chose not to reveal the father of her child (a famous pastor of a mega-church), her sentence will last for fifteen years. 

Hilary Jordan has come up with a truly original take on crime and punishment. In some ways, the idea of publicly shaming people this way instead of incarcerating them seems attractive.  However, Jordan brings to light a variety of problems with this approach as Hannah attempts to reintegrate into society as a Chrome.  Her relationship with her conservative Christian family and her lover is complex and layered.  I found Hannah's struggles interesting and poignant.  The only real problem I had with this book was Jordan's inclusion of a more action-packed twist towards the end of the book. Hannah's struggles as a Chrome and the effect it has on her relationships are the most interesting part.  The rest is just filler.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. I think this would make a great book club pick. It is a quick interesting read that can generate a lot of discussion about crime and punishment.  I just wish Jordan had skipped the unnecessary plot additions toward the end of the book.

4 comments:

KG Style said...

This is a really good read! I used to work for the company that publishes it and was able to get an advanced copy. Follow me!

Bookfool said...
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Bookfool said...

I said exactly the same thing -- I think it would make an excellent discussion book. But, I did think it got a little strange toward the end and I didn't ever fully buy into the romance.

Seattle Water Main Repair Company said...

The characters in this book are strong and well-developed, unique and interesting. While there are a lot of strings left. The story was enthralling - I've had a difficult weekend finding a good book, spending two days on two different books, neither of which I could finish, before starting this one a scant 8 hours ago and finishing it with only a couple short breaks to fix myself tea. Highly recommended for ANYONE and EVERYONE - you MUST read this book!