Thursday, 20 December 2012

Review: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Title: When She Woke
Author: Hillary Jordan
Author Info: Website|Blog|Twitter|Facebook
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Publication Date: 30th August 2012

Tell Me About It
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 colour 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.

My Thoughts
When She Woke arrived in my post unsolicited, and once I had read the synopsis I thought it sounded interesting, but had to put it to one side in order to finish books that I had requested.  Once I had made some headway with my review pile I picked up When She Woke and made a start on it.

One of the things that drew me in was the cover, and while it is very captivating I didn't think it suited the story, but when I looked on goodreads I found this cover and I personally think this one matches the story and portrays the protagonist perfectly.  This would definitely capture my attention if I saw it in a bookshop.

When She Woke is a surprisingly great read, and while I had not heard of this book or the author before, I am glad I received a copy.  When you read the story you get to understand the red skin more.  In the world Hillary has created, any person who commits a crime has melachroming, having their skin colour altered, to fit their crimes, from red, yellow, blue etc.  The criminals are also sent to state prison, and depending on their crime spend a set amount of days there, then have to remain their colour for another set time.
Our protagonist, Hannah, had an abortion, and was quickly discovered.  However she refused to name the father, and the person who carried out the procedure, earning herself 30 days in Crawford State Prison, and 16 years of being a Red.

As the story progresses and we get to learn more about Hannah and her world, we get to see how bad it is for the Chromes in a world where their crimes are on display.  While part of me agrees with the melachroming for some cases I also got to see how hard it was for Hannah to try to go back to her normal life.  It was impossible, her family don't want to know her, people look down at her or try to attack her, it's a cruel, violent world and my heart broke for Hannah and what she has to suffer through.  When she finally finds a safe place to stay for a while, all is not what it seems, and while I wont go into detail about what happens while she is there, the owners of this supposedly safe house are just as bad s the rest of the world.  Not all is bad for Hannah, she makes new friends that stick with her through thick and thin, and they all have each others backs.  She also learns more about herself and what she truly believes in, and not what is thrown at her face by others.  By the end of the book Hannah has grown as a person and as a character and I was very disappointed to see her go.

Hillary is not afraid to tackle hard to issues and push the limits, with politics, religion, and criminal punishment, it all makes for a gripping read.  When She Woke was impossible for me to put down, and I grudgingly did it for necessities  like sleeping and going to work and while I may not have heard of Hillary before, she is now on my list of authors to watch.

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