Jo's Reviews > When She Woke

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
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's review
Jul 13, 12

it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy-and-science-fiction
Read from May 28 to 29, 2012

This book had so much potential to be really good, but it didn't quite make it for me. It's a re-telling of Nathanial Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" with a nod to Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale". Hannah Payne wakes up "chromed" a vivid shade of red. In a near future version of America future, this chroming is the punishment for all sorts of crimes, with different colors for different crimes. In Jordan's dystopian future, most of America has been co-opted by a disturbingly restrictive version of Christian Conservatism, wherein there is no separation of church and state and abortion is a criminal offense - it's murder, and it is for this crime that Hannah is chromed. By refusing to name the father she has added to her sentence. The book follows Hannah as she is released from prison to cope with living in a world that abuses and discriminates against 'Chromes'.

From this premise I was expecting/anticipating a book that is a compelling social commentary, with multi-layered interesting characters exploring the conflicts of their own beliefs and culture, and struggling against discrimination to survive. Not so much. The characters are largely flat, and not given much time to develop. In addition, the "bad" characters (mostly conservative Christians) are wholly bad and hypocritical with no redeeming qualities (very insulting ). The author did not let us discover what we felt about this world but rather heavy-handedly hammered her views into the reader. I would've liked to examine the psychology of the Chromes and the dehumanizing effect their Chroming had on them; it didn't really happen -- there was a little of it before the book turned into an adventure novel about halfway through. I'm also not crazy about some of the main character's choices, and the ending also leaves much to be desired. This is really unfortunate as the novel had so much potential.


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