Series or Standalone: Standalone
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan is a modern adaptation of The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne which is a book that I’ve tried to read but just never seem to have made it very far. What I like about When She Woke is that it takes all the themes of the Scarlet Letter and puts them into a context and language that is more easily accessible to those who don’t feel like dealing with Hawthorne’s prose. I also liked the futuristic and dystopian setting of the world that Jordan created. It was a realistic and often scary look at where we as a people can end up if we follow certain paths.
The story is told from Hannah’s point of view as she is released from the Chrom ward into the world as a red Chrome. Red dye of a sort is injected into her to let the world know that she was convicted of murder but she isn’t violent and so is free to roam the world instead of being incarcerated in super over populated prisons. Hannah’s crime was abortion and in not naming the father of her baby, who was a prominent married man in society, and in a world where a virus made fertility tough abortion is a capital offense. I enjoyed Hannah’s look at the world and in learning the back story of how her world came to be through flash backs and memories.
Although there were times in which I thought Hannah was a little too naive but I could accept that as she was raised in a very conservative religious household. There was also one scene about mid-way through the book that I felt was very contrived and very unrealistic based on Hannah’s upbringing. It just came out of no where and felt very awkwardly done. I felt the story would have been better off without it as it was just so contrary to the character of Hannah. And because of that I was thrown out of the story and it took a bit to get back into it. Other than that, I did like Hannah’s growth throughout the novel. She does start out very naive but through the people she meets she does grow as a person into a strong character.
I also really enjoyed the narrator of this book. Corrigan did a great job with all the voices and dialects and read a steady and consistent pace. She really helped to bring the character of Hannah to life and I think that it really added to my enjoyment of this book. I am not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I had just read the physical version of it. I will definitely be on the look out for this narrator in the future.
All in all I enjoyed When She Woke, it wasn’t a perfect novel and I did have some issues with the plotting but mostly it was easy to get lost in this story. Its one that really makes you think and it felt very real. The scenarios that resulted in the world Hannah grew up in could potentially happen if world events play out in a certain way. Which is a scary thought to think about. But we need to think about where our actions as a society today could lead so that we prevent such things from happening. If you enjoyed Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale then you will probably enjoy When She Woke as well.