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Review: ‘When She Woke’ by Hillary Jordan

Review: ‘When She Woke’ by Hillary Jordan post image

Title: When She Woke
Author: Hillary Jordan
Genre: Fiction
Year: 2011
Acquired: Library
Rating: ★★★★★

Review: I love Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale was the first book of her’s I’ve read, and I’ve been a ridiculous fangirl ever since. I also have a special place in my heart for The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. I actually really love all of that early-American, semi-Puritan nutty literature, if only because I love turning those stories into soap operas in my head.

I tell you that because those to facts make me the perfect reader for Hillary Jordan’s new book When She Woke, a sort of futuristic mash-up of those two stories where people who commit crimes have their skin dyed to match their crime as a form of punishment/entertainment.

Hannah Payne has been a devoted daughter and member of her church for her entire life. That’s what makes her conviction for murdering her unborn child so unexpected. When Hannah refuses to name the man who got her pregnant, her sentence as a Chrome is extended. When She Woke is the story of how Hannah, a woman stigmatized by society and abandoned by her family, tries to take control of herown life and find a place in a world where faith and love are political tools and crime is entertainment.

Even if I hadn’t been reading When She Woke during the October Read-a-Thon, I’m pretty sure I would have dropped everything to read it straight from cover to cover. This is a remarkably engaging and addicting book that brings together the best parts of the literature that inspired it while setting the story in a world uncomfortably similar to the one we live in now. There’s tension, romance, adventure, and political commentary centered around a protagonist that could be almost anyone.

I can’t say enough good things about this book and highly recommend picking it up.

Other Reviews: S. Krishna’s Books | Fizzy Thoughts | Literate Housewife | Erin Reads |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Helen Murdoch November 18, 2011, 8:05 am

    I”ve heard such good reviews of this one and yours has tipped me over the hill (so to speak) and I’ve written it down on my “buy this really soon” list! And, that may happen sooner than expected as I’ll have my iPad while waiting for my plane today 🙂

    • Kim November 19, 2011, 9:09 am

      I really thought this one was awesome. I was totally sucked into the story, really connected to the characters, and I thought a lot about how the idea of gender and sex have changed since the two books that inspired it were written. It was really interesting.

  • Stephanie November 18, 2011, 9:39 am

    I am dying to read this one. It sounds like I should carve out a chunk of time for it when I pick it up because I may want to read it straight through.

    • Kim November 19, 2011, 9:09 am

      In some ways I’m glad I read this one during the Read-a-Thon — it was nice to just sit down and read it straight though. It’s so compelling, I may have done that anyway.

  • Steph November 18, 2011, 10:21 am

    I too really enjoy both The Handmaids Tale and The Scarlet Letter, so while I previously might not have thought of mashing the two together, the more I think about it, the more I think it works! I’ve heard such good things about this book, and the premise really sounds great and like Jordan is really doing something above and beyond a simple replica of The Scarlet Letter, so I would like to read it at some point. It does sound like it was a perfect readathon book!

    • Kim November 19, 2011, 9:11 am

      Yes, exactly. I wouldn’t have thought of it myself either, but the book is so well done it seems like an obvious mash-up now that I think about it. It’s absolutely more than just a re-telling of The Scarlet Letter. I think she does a great job of bringing the themes and ideas of the books into a contemporary, almost-like-today setting and exploring what that means.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) November 18, 2011, 3:31 pm

    I first heard about this at BEA and it sounds very engaging. I can’t wait to read it.

    • Kim November 19, 2011, 9:11 am

      I totally missed this one at BEA, which is disappointing. I loved it.

  • Jeanne November 18, 2011, 4:14 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this, but now that I have, I must read it.

    • Kim November 19, 2011, 9:12 am

      Yes, read it! I almost wish I’d read the book slower so I’d have thought more about it, but maybe it’s a future re-reading project — looking at this book and the two inspiring books all together.

  • softdrink November 18, 2011, 7:09 pm

    Yes! After a bit of distance, this might be my favorite book this year. It’s certainly the one that I remember the best, as there’s so much to mull over and think on.

    • Kim November 19, 2011, 9:12 am

      Very much so. It’s definitely one of my favorite fiction reads of the year.

  • Diane@BibliophileBytheSea November 18, 2011, 8:31 pm

    Oh wow, I had a feeling this would be a good one –hope I get to read it soon as I really enjoyed your review.

    • Kim November 30, 2011, 6:46 pm

      It’s way good. I think it’ll be in my top books of the year.

  • Sheila (Book Journey) November 19, 2011, 11:05 am

    I hate to admit this but…. I have yet to read The Handmaids Tale and The Scarlett Letter.

    I know right? Both exist in my library as well as this book here. I need to read all three.

    • Kim November 30, 2011, 6:46 pm

      That would be a fun reading challenge, wouldn’t it? Read all three over like three months or something?

  • Kailana November 19, 2011, 8:46 pm

    I really liked this book. I had a few issues, but nothing major. I really want to read Mudbound by the author, but my library doesn’t have it.

    • Kim November 30, 2011, 6:47 pm

      I’m curious about her other books too. I’m not sure if the library has Mudbound.

  • Trish November 19, 2011, 10:38 pm

    Your are the first one I’ve seen make the connection to Atwood and that has me really interested in the book! While I love The Scarlet Letter and was interested in this one because of that connection, I LOVE Atwood. Still have Mudbound on my shelf to tackle, though…

    • Kim November 30, 2011, 6:47 pm

      Really? That’s weird, since I think it says all of that on the jacket copy! Margaret Atwood = my literary heroine.

  • Trisha November 19, 2011, 11:01 pm

    This title has been floating around in the background of my brain for a while now, but the Atwood comparison has me pushing it to the forefront.

    • Kim November 30, 2011, 6:47 pm

      Read it! That is all 🙂

  • Gwen November 21, 2011, 10:16 pm

    I have been so on the fence about reading this one. Would it be silly of me to admit that because you read it and liked it, I now want to read it. The silly part is that I am not a fan of Atwood, yet you comparing it to her doesn’t scare me off. lOL

    • Kim November 30, 2011, 6:48 pm

      Nope, I have a bunch of bloggers that I do that with. If they love it, I automatically put it on a list to check out. I love having solid recommenders. I really hope you like this one!

      Also, Atwood isn’t scary at all. She’s brilliant and accessible 🙂