When She Woke – Hillary Jordan

Posted: November 9, 2011 in Book Reviews
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Jordan’s novel is set in a dystopic future that might not be too far away from where we are now. The story’s heroine, Hannah Payne, is arrested and turned into a “Chrome” for the crime of abortion. Criminals are injected with a virus that mutates the color of their bodies according to the crime they have committed. It is a very public form of humiliation and personal shame. These criminals are not incarcerated, but are freed into the world after their melachroming. The prejudice and hatred against these people is inhumane. Most are treated with contempt and malice, while others simply do not survive – either by killing themselves or by disappearing and then turning up dead in an alley or parking lot. Hannah was raised to be a good daughter and a God-fearing woman. When put on trial for her crime, she refuses to name the father of her child or the name of the abortionist – even though this will add years to her own sentence. After release from the Chrome ward, Hannah is thrust into a cruel world she had never encountered before and must learn the truth about herself, God, and the world around her if she wants to survive.

When She Woke is a modern update on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic The Scarlet Letter. This dystopic future seems so dark and cold, but when put into context, our society might not be so far from the one depicted in the novel. The plot of this story is wonderfully built and carried out with elegance and beauty. The characters, especially Hannah, are easy to identify and empathize with. The reader becomes a part of her cause and they will find themselves fighting for Hannah and her struggles. This is a genuinely inspiring novel showing the extreme obstacles people must overcome and how life may try to break you but you must never lose hope. It is a story of strength, perseverance, faith, and most of all, a story of self-discovery. I highly recommend this novel to everyone – especially those who like to root for the underdog and who wish to witness the beauty of life in all of its duality.


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