October 1, 2011 20 Comments
Dystopia? I love it! When it’s a good story. This one’s good. It missed a little something for me, but overall it was a very good and original read.
When She Woke: What it is about
Hannah Payne wakes up in a detention center, her skin colored red all-over. A virus had been injected as a punishment for having an abortion. Abortions are not allowed in the very religious society she lives in, a post-scourge USA that left many dead with the survivors trying to build up a community again.
Being red she is recognizable as a criminal and anyone in the streets can attack her, kidnap or rape her without others stepping up to help her. Luckily, once she’s out of the detention center her father arranges a place for her in a rehabilitation center for chromes (criminal girls that have been dyed red, yellow or another color, depending on their crime).
It turns out that the rehabiliation center is even more strictly religious than the outside world but Hannah is lucky enough to make a friend, making her stay more bearable.
After many challenging events Hannah has to decide how she will survive in the big bad world.
When She Woke: What I thought
This book indeed reminded me a lot of The Handmaid’s Tale. The story is very different but it had the same suffocating, religious, atmosphere.
The story was quite bleak, with lots of unpleasant things happening, and I didn’t feel totally attached to Hannah. However, it wasn’t all bad: there was also love, friendship and altruism.
I thought the story was too focused on Hannah and the Chrome system, with the rest of the new, changed world (compared to ours) not explained quite so well. I like dystopian novels especially for the way the author presents a new world to the reader, and it was a pity that wasn’t further though through.
The events around Hannah were very interesting and original. The book was well-written and because of the events and a certain suspense in the story I found it hard not to skip sentences to find out what would happen next.
Compared to The Handmaid’s Tale, When She Woke seems less likely to happen in the future and was therefore less unnerving.
Because 26-year old Hannah had been brought up by very strict parents, allowing her very little freedom, she seemed more like a young adult with very little experience with the real world. However, the book is not particularly aimed at young adults and makes a good read for older adults, too.
Rating: 4/5 stars
I got this book: from Algonquin books for review
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 352
First published: 2011 (October 11th)
Genre: science fiction, dystopia
Do not confuse this book with: Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson, a thriller about memory loss. Very different from When She Woke.
I enjoyed this book a lot. If you read it and absolutely loved it, consider nominating this book for the Independent Literary Awards under Speculative Fiction. Any reader can nominate titles!