I’m jumping right into this because it’s been a long time since I did one of these, and this is the first one I’m posting here on my WordPress blog. I’m also trying to improve them a bit, so please forgive any inconsistencies in format over the coming weeks while I decide what I want to include in these.
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
When I Read It: January 2014
Genres: Dystopian; Adult Fiction; Feminism
Recommended For: Fans of dystopian books, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
Bellwether Prize winner Hillary Jordan’s provocative new novel, When She Woke, tells the story of 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—their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crimes—and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder.
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.
This story reads a lot like a retelling of The Scarlet Letter with a bit of The Handmaid’s Tale thrown in for extra drama and terror. This is definitely a provocative novel, and not something I would recommend to people easily offended. However, if you enjoyed either of the aforementioned books, I highly recommend this one because once I picked it up, it was almost impossible for me to put it down.
This story takes on big subjects, like the separation of church and state, abortion, sexuality, and more. Jordan’s writing wasn’t preachy, as far as I remember, for either side of any topic covered. Instead, she showed most in both favorable and unfavorable lights. Her representation of women (and humanity, in general) was very realistic, with both strong and weaker characters throughout the story.
While I want to recommend this book to everyone, I’ve honestly struggled for a while with the decision of whether or not to feature this on a MRM post because it can be a bit controversial. It isn’t for everyone, and I think it might be one of those that you either love or hate.
Have you read When She Woke? If you have, what did you think of it?