23 November 2012

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
Release Date: August 30, 2012 (UK)
Publisher: Harper
Source: Publisher
Goodreads Stars: 2

Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family, but after her arrest, she awakens to a nightmare: she is lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes – criminals whose skin colour has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime – is a new and sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. The victim, according to the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she’s shared a fierce and forbidden love.

WHEN SHE WOKE is a fable about 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 and released back into the population to survive as best they can. 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. 

I had seen some friends rave about this book, and so I was really excited to finally get to it last month. Unfortunately, I didn't like it.

The beginning of the novel was promising. I really liked the concept of there being a world in which abortion was banned, and the main character being punished for it. Not because I agree, but because it's interesting... or, at least, it could have been. Despite my hopes, the book was just dull.

There were some really good moments sprinkled throughout, but most of the book felt like I was on a boring car journey through the desert with nothing at all to look at, not even cacti. Add to that your dad pointing out rocks that all look the same and you don't get a very good adventure. I'm not sure where I was going with that, but there it is. Boring boring boring.

The world it was set in was my favourite part about the novel. Criminals, rather than being imprisoned, get their skin dyed different colours to reflect their crimes. This is considered by most to be worse than imprisonment, due to the rest of the citizens treatment of the criminals. They become victims. I do wonder, though, what would happen if someone committed two crimes. I'd assume that if one was something like murder and the other was a petty crime then they'd be marked for murder, but what if the two crimes were as bad as each other?

There is a random lesbian love scene which I would have ADORED it if it had been developed more, but instead it felt as though it had just been thrown in. There was no build up to it, no curiosity from the main character (who started out as quite homophobic), and then it wasn't even mentioned again after it happened. What.

I don't even know what happened to Hannah's character. She seemed to yo-yo throughout the novel, which was incredibly annoying since we were stuck in the metaphorical car with her for the entire metaphorical journey. One minute she's against religion, the next she's completely for it. She didn't even develop into a badass by the end, by which I was incredibly disappointed.

Overall, it was a boring book with a stagnant main character. I wouldn't recommend it, despite the message... wait, what message was it even trying to send?


  1. It does sound like it cou.d have great possibility. Sorry that it didn't live up to what you wanted.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

    1. Thanks Brandi! Yeah, I was really looking forward to this. Oh well.

  2. Hmm, too bad this ended up being so blah. Though I do like the idea of the criminals... sort of - actually you're right, if your skin is already dyed, marking you as a criminal, then what's to stop you from committing your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, nth crime if you've already received your punishment?

    1. Exactly! There was so much more to be developed... Unless it was and I missed it but I really don't think so. I mean, I know these criminals would be rejected by society, but what's to stop them from committing more crimes anyway?

  3. Awww that's a bummer you didn't like this one. I've heard a lot of good things about it from friends and it's been on my TBR list for awhile now. I'm not so keen on reading it now though since character issues are normally a big pet peeve of mine while reading. I guess we'll see though. :)

    1. If you do decide to pick it up then I hope you enjoy it! Some friends of mine did, so... :D

  4. I too was disappointed. There were so many missed opportunities, especially with the whole Zilpah thing and the Fists of Christ, just to mention two. In my opinion, if she had taken out the propaganda and unnecessary diversions, she could have elaborated on topics she just mentioned in passing. What a shame.


Thank you for commenting!