Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"When She Woke" by Hillary Jordan

341 pages

The America Hannah Payne lives in can be harsh. The line between church and state has been eradicated, and crime is so out of control that there is no room for all the criminals in the prisons. Therefore, all but the most dangerous offenders are Chromed--their skin color is genetically altered to match the classification of their crime. Chromes have no way to conceal their crimes, so they are often subject to discrimination and persecution. Hannah used to not worry much about that, though, because she was the last person anyone expected to end up being Chromed. She was always obediently devoted to church and her conservative family. But that all changed when she fell in love--with a married man. And not just any married man, either--one of the most high-profile religious leaders in America. When she found out she was pregnant with his child, she felt she has no choice but to have an abortion to protect his identity. Problem was, in this new society abortion is equivalent to murder, and she was caught and convicted. Now she has to set out into the world as a Red, and she's about to find out just how dangerous that can be.

I had trouble putting this book down! I really like dystopian literature in general, and this is one of the best I've read in a while. The world Jordan creates is out-there enough to be interesting but realistic enough that I could totally picture this kind of society developing in the United States. Hannah is a fascinating character. She's struggling with a crisis of faith, trying to reconcile the world she's been brought up in with the things she is experiencing and discovering as a Chrome. I think a lot of readers will relate to her. One thing I didn't like was that the Scarlet Letter references are pretty heavy-handed. I felt like this was a little insulting, like "oh, in case you couldn't tell, this is supposed to be like The Scarlet Letter and this society is bad!" I can already tell, thanks. But still, this is an exciting story that made me think.

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