Saturday, October 8, 2011

Guest Review: High School Pick: When She Woke

Blogger's Note: This review was submitted by my BFF and fellow avid ya reader and reviewer Leslie Rush. Leslie has taught high school for 21 years and loves ya novels.

When She Woke
By Hillary Jordan
Algonquin Books
Oct 2011
352 pages

read an excerpt here

I had only finished the first chapter of When She Woke when I began emailing friends, family and co-workers to buy this book and read it the minute it comes out.

Hillary Jordan has created a compelling heroine navigating a ravaged world in which the line between church and state has been eliminated—a heroine convicted of murdering her unborn child.

It is the late 2020s. Disease and civil unrest have decimated the population. The Great Scourge has left many of the surviving women infertile, resulting in the passage of Sanctity Of Life laws, outlawing abortion for any reason across the most of the United States and Canada. The years of disintegrating law and order have resulted in significant changes in crime and punishment, and only the most violent offenders are imprisoned for long sentences. Most criminals are “chromed”; injected with a virus that changes their skin color to bright red, green, blue or yellow to indicate their class of crime, for the time period determined at sentencing. “Chromes” must try to survive on the streets as best they can, social pariahs that suffer discrimination, assault and even death at the hands of vigilante groups. If they miss their scheduled chroming“booster shots” they face complete mental disintegration and permanent insanity.

Hannah Paine’s journey begins “when she woke,” chromed red. The sheltered daughter of a strict religious family, she has committed the crime of murder –aborting her unborn child, the product of a passionate, illicit love affair with the charismatic pastor Aidan Dale, who is now America’s Secretary of Faith. Hannah must finish her 30 days in the Chrome Ward, under the relentless eye of a broadcast video camera, then remain a Red for the next sixteen years. She has refused to name the father of her child, dooming herself to the maximum sentence.

As Hannah’s story unfolds, her relationships within her family are changed utterly; her cold mother disowns her completely, her anguished father does everything he can think of to help her, and her once-close sister is kept from Hannah by a violent, bigoted husband. Hannah is still relentlessly, achingly in love with Aidan, and her agonizing recall of their doomed love is interwoven with her poignant optimism that somehow they will be reunited.

With her only friend(and fellow Red) Kayla, she escapes a harrowing stint at a halfway house staffed by sadistic religious fanatics, and begins a dangerous trip north to Canada, via a network of militant feminist revolutionaries . Threatened on all sides by law enforcement, vigilantes, human traffickers, and loomimg mental disintegration --her odyssey is not just one of distance and danger, but of self. As Hannah navigates her way though a world she never knew existed , she battles self-loathing and doubt, and the deepest crisis of faith possible: who she really is and what she truly believes.

Hillary Jordan’s second novel pulls no punches. No matter what your political or religious beliefs, Jordan’s cautionary tale about fanaticism and the power of the individual will make readers examine their own beliefs through this raw, disturbing, deeply satisfying story.

Recommended for adult readers and mature teens 17 and up. Sexual content, violence, mature themes

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