In a near-future America, Hannah wakes up a (red) Chrome after being sentenced for killing her unborn child. Abhorred by society, Chromes often don’t live out their sentence because they are hunted down by vigilante groups or feel so isolated that they commit suicide. Shunned by her religious family and community, Hannah doesn’t know where to go or who to trust, but she’ll have to be strong if she’s going to survive.
WHEN SHE WOKE is a compelling page turner that takes the themes of Hawthorne’s SCARLET LETTER and explores them a political dystopia where criminals must literally wear their shame. Hester Prynne’s Puritans are Hannah Payne’s Evangelicals and Hester’s clergyman lover Arthur Dimmesdale is Hannah’s mega-church pastor Aiden Dale. There are other shout-outs to the Hawthorne’s book too (for example when Hannah is forced to make and name a doll to represent her aborted child, she calls her Pearl), and the action stays very close to Hannah’s personal journey from quietly rebellious believer to tough, world-weary skeptic.
And what thrilling action it is – the story pulsates with constant threats to Hannah’s safety and we’re immersed in a fascinating and carefully constructed dystopian landscape of legalized morality.
Really the only aspect that muted my enjoyment of this novel was the thorough and very unsubtle condemnation and vilifying of the religious establishment. With the exception of a one scene walk-on of a sympathetic minister, every religious character is portrayed as sadistic, weak-willed or both. I found this to be an unfortunate over-simplification in an otherwise thought-provoking narrative.
WHEN SHE WOKE is set for publication on October 4, 2011. Find out more about it on the author’s website.
Zombie chickens say: Could be more nuanced, but otherwise, highly recommended.
Song for the Ultimate Dystopian Playlist: Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh. Sample lyric: “I will never forget the way you look tonight, lady in red.” (Ok, this is somewhat ironic, but also kinda fitting)
Thanks to Algonquin, I have 3 ARCs up for grabs for readers in the US. To enter, fill out this form by Sept 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm CST. Good luck!