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When She Woke (2011)
by Hillary Jordan
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I found the book to be a page-turner and imaginative in some ways, but it also seemed juvenile and clumsy and unoriginal in other ways. A pretty good YA book I guess. People have compared it to Margaret Atwood's "Handmaid's Tale" - I read that a long time ago, but I remember liking it a lot and I'm guessing it was a much better book. The other obvious influence is the Scarlet Letter, but I don't see exactly why it's so great to have a sort of sci-fi remake of the Scarlet Letter. But I do have to admit there was definitely some writing skill in the page-turniness of the book. I really wanted to see what would happen and I never seriously thought about bailing out on the book.
Scarlett letter meets a Handmaid's Tale plus lesbians. Derivative but compelling anyway.
This was an awesome book. Couldn't put it down.
Star and a half. Spoilers ahead. I was utterly absorbed in this when it first came out, and curious to read it again this year. It had been positively compared to "Handmaid's Tale," which I wasn't able to get ahold of at the time. Reading the first twenty pages of this, I understood it to be a society that had once again murdered or tortured into conversion its Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other populations. I suspected that once again, Pagans and Wiccans had been hanged, drowned, pressed, or burned at the stake, and tortured beforehand. The reigning religion was coded as Evangelical Christianity, but other readers have also suggested a fundamentalist branch of Mormonism. I did -not- want to be in such a world, but I had to if I wanted to finish the book. It was on practically every page. The world-building was good. I hated Aiden both times, and on reread I believed him to be a serial cheater, that he's had sex with women from his congregation before. What a douchebag. Him and his behavior, his whining when he faced consequences, or more often, when the woman he seduced did. What a greedy, selfish man. And for some reason, readers are supposed to hate his wife. I couldn't. I empathized with her. There's a lot of sexism in this book, but it's presented as world-building. I didn't appreciate it, but I got why.
Hannah's mother was a terrible person and I wished her dad had been more proactive. I get why this was set up the way it was, though. Becca felt like a character that was there just so her husband could hit her and roar at her. He's--not really too complex an antagonist. While I hated him instantly and throughout the book, it also felt like he was one in a long line of people who I was supposed to despise. It felt like the only person I was supposed to like was Kayla, and that I was supposed to sympathize with Hannah. That happened, but this time I was definitely wondering why people were characterized in such broad strokes. I hated Hannah's mother and Cole, though.
I was not impressed with Hannah sleeping with Simone or the stereotypical lesbian subplot--it was a Big Lipped Alligator Moment (thanks to Nostalgic Woman for the term), and Hannah was really sanctimonious. Homosexuality isn't a rebellion! Stop treating it as such. She's so cheesy and melodramatic about it, too, after so much time pining for Aiden. I believed her yearning for Aiden more. She acts as though she's known Simone for years just because the other woman gave her an orgasm and had sex with her in a way she hadn't imagined. Other homophobia is blatant besides. A gay guy sells Hannah and Kayla into slavery so he can pay for a lavish house restoration, after arguably kidnapping them. The other gay person in this story is Simone, who has at best dub-con sex with Hannah. Dub-con because there's a power dynamic: she's responsible for Hannah's safety and should things go south, Simone has a lot less to lose. In the edition I was reading, two pages after they have sex, Hannah goes back to panting for and pining after Aiden, and rushes off to find him.
This is not only a common trope; it's common IRL. It leaves a lot of queer folk with heartache as they realize they were yet again a science experiment for a bored or sad straight person. Why the fuck was the Simone love scene added to the story!? It adds nothing and doesn't change the plot in anyway, and comes out of nowhere. Hannah quickly grows annoyed with Simone once she realizes Aiden still wants her. She contemplates killing this woman so she can get back with her boyfriend who's totes gonna leave his wife, folks. Simone reveals she's been raped, and there's more homophobic framing: an incredibly common question lesbian women can have when coming out is indeed, "Am I a lesbian because I was raped?" I just--(shakes head)
A lot of this was really repetitive: Cole's a monster and Hannah's the only one who can stand up to him, thinking of Aiden, pining for Aiden, remembering sex with Aiden, being moved around by people who help Chromes but not always. I felt worse for Kayla both times reading this than I did for Hannah, although I was more detached from everyone. Hannah doesn't seem to learn anything throughout the novel. Lesbians are of course drooling over her, and female reverends only show up to help her. Both types of women also ultimately appear to only further her relationship with and examination of her Christian-coded god. She never really doubts her faith for more than a page or two. She's saved from every danger, and experiences the lightest forms of many hardships. I was glad to finish the book. I don't plan on reading it again.
These early scenes, in which Hannah wakes up in the Chrome ward where she’s been sentenced to remain for 30 days, are promisingly inventive. ... Lacking the satiric sting of “1984″ and “A Clockwork Orange,” the pathos of “Super Sad True Love Story” and “The Book of Dave,” or the kind of newfangled vocabulary each of these works used to describe their worlds, Jordan’s dystopia turns out to depict a much smaller future than its bold opening chapters, with their clever homage to Hawthorne, had so valiantly attempted to guarantee.
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Wikipedia in English (1)
In the future, abortion has become a crime as a series of events threatens the existence of the United States. One woman wakes up to discover that her skin color has been changed to red as punishment for having the procedure done. Now she must embark on a dangerous journey in order to find refuge from a hostile and threatening society.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.
This is a lovely awful dystopian novel, and I appreciate that it stands alone and that it called into question faith and the various ways one can embrace it. I don't have any myself, but regardless, I enjoyed reading about Hannah's devotion changing.
Same issue as always though--there's never quite an easy solution to dystopian novels. Kinda like our world today. ( )