Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan


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!

23 comments:

Heather said...

"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."

This was my only problem witht he book as well. I thought she could have had a more fair and balanced portrayal of the religious community. I kept thinking "we're not all like that!"

Great review Lenore. I did really enjoy this book and it made me anxious to reread The Scarlet Letter, something I've been meaning to do for years.

Andi said...

I teach The Scarlet Letter for an Early American Lit class, and I think it could be fun to think outside the box and pair this one with Scarlet Letter to look at theme. Great review! Looking forward to the giveaway, Lenore. :)

Lenore Appelhans said...

Heather - "We're not all like that!" indeed.

Andi - I like the way you think!

April (Books&Wine) said...

I actually really loved The Scarlett Letter in high school, total nerd alert, I know.

Anyways, When She Woke sounds awesome. Nice job getting me psyched for it.

Zibilee said...

This is a book that I really want to read, despite being unschooled with The Scarlet Letter. I think the parallels within the story sound fascinating, and I am hoping to read both of them back-to-back at some point. I also don't know how I will feel about the black and white portrayal of religion, but I think it will be interesting to investigate and think about.

reviewsbylola said...

I am dying to read this one. The fact that it is inspired by The Scarlet Letter has me intrigued.

Emily said...

"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."

The thing about religiously motivated societies/ cults is the concept of a hive mind. If someone was to stand up and support Hannah while everyone else shunned her, they too would have been hated. This doubles if one goes against something the leader of the religious community has said should they take on the persona of a saint or messenger of God. You don't want to go against God? Then belief this, act this way, and treat this person like this, or lose everything. Scary, but that's how religious cults function today. Chances are Hannah does have her supporters, but they're too scared of ending up like her to do/ say anything.

This looks crazy good, and I'm definitely going to get my hands on a copy. The cover looks beautiful, too.

Lenore Appelhans said...

"If someone was to stand up and support Hannah while everyone else shunned her, they too would have been hated."

I can see this as a valid excuse for the actions of Hannah's family (especially her sister), but it's not an excuse for the people who run the Chrome shelter that Hannah goes to. Their characterization is way too over the top evil and a wasted chance to show that religion can also be about compassion, not just zealotry.

Chris said...

I've been dying to read this one!! Sounds amazing. Though it is truly sad when an author takes an entire population of people and makes them evil :/ Thanks for the fantastic review :)

Anna said...

Great review! I'm looking forward to reading it. Sounds like the author was making a political statement, especially with her portrayal of all the religious characters.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

Oh VERY cool, remix! Too bad it could have done with a bit more subtlety but I do like the take on the story.

bermudaonion said...

I've been excited about this book since BEA!

thatcovergirl said...

I'm excited about this one as well. It sounds like a great book club discussion book, and while I'm a bit put off by what you've mentioned (re: religion-hatin), 4 zombie chickens still makes it a must-read!

Kailana said...

I really want to read this!! I have it on my list of books I wouldn't mind nice people giving me for my birthday... I was sad to see the give-away is only for the US! That means I have to wait...

Beth S. said...

This book sounds fascinating! Awesome review.

Jen D. @ Not Now...I'm Reading! said...

The cover art grabbed me and your review piqued my interest. Sounds like a really good read.

Alyce said...

I saw it as a facet of how twisted the religion had become in their society, that it wasn't a religion based on compassion - that the religion had morphed into something sinister and terrible.

I didn't see it as a condemnation of religion on the whole, just of the sick and demented religion that had developed in that particular society. And I was glad that they did include one compassionate religious person in the story in order to show that there were still at least some true believers out there.

But I think the aspect of it that made the society so creepy and scary was that the religious people had lost their compassion and become predatory.

Allison said...

I am so intrigued by the whole dystopian Scarlet Letter thing - glad to know you enjoyed it overall! I'll have to get my hands on a copy.

theprettybooks said...

I didn't know about this one; it sounds great! *adds to wishlist*

Diana Peterfreund said...

this sounds so good. How have I not heard about it before?

Jessy said...

I haven't really heard much about this yet. Thanks for the early review, It sounds great!

Michelle said...

Gotta say this one doesn't sounds appealing to me at all. :(

Danmark said...

In the near future, 20-30 years on, criminals get "chromed"; i.e. their skin is turned into bright colors that fit their crime (red for murder). This future is not that far off our current state and is very plausable. Compare to Margaret Atwood.