Sunday, November 20, 2011

My take on: When She Woke

Look, I finished a book!! I know it took me two months to finish When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, but that's not because the book was boring. The book was great, it's just that my reading pace goes in peaks and valleys. Sometimes, I tend to put some books ahead of others. This didn't have a set date, so it kind of fell off to the side. I read the first 60 pages, then I kind of stalled for a little bit.

When I finally read the last 270+ pages, I found that this book was awesome.

Hannah Payne is red. She woke up with red skin, after committing a crime against society and God. What was her crime? She had an abortion. She refused to name the father or the abortionist. Hannah went against everything she was taught. She fell in love, and had sex outside of marriage. Worst of all she fell in love with charismatic pastor Aidan Dale, who also happens to be married.

In this dystopian society, God is the center of everything. You're not supposed to question things. The path is marriage, children, and devoting your lives to God. Hannah's parents followed that path, and so did Hannah's sister Becca. Only Hannah wishes Becca would get away from her abusive husband Cole. Hannah wants more out of life than being the dutiful daughter. She rebels in her own way. Hannah wears flashy dresses in secret. Her relationship with Aidan is Hannah's biggest act of defiance. She followed her heart rather that what was expected of her. Female authority and sexuality is taboo in this society. Pregnancy brings all her of her secrets and fears out in the open.

Her punishment for abortion is 16 years as a Red. A process called chroming. Although I never read The Scarlett Letter, that's what Hannah's punishment will remind you of. She's branded in the worst way. Forced to live and face her crime every day she looks in the mirror. The place where it's done is reminiscent of a torture chamber. Hannah is isolated in a white room and left to her thoughts. Left to wonder was it all worth it? How long can she live like this? Will her family forgive her? Will others accept her?

Hannah struggles when she is back in society. Her father and Aidan find a church program that will accept her. That place was more about humiliation and submission than redemption. This point in the book reminds me of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Women forced to live by certain set of rules, if you don't then you're cast out. The only saving grace of this place is that Hannah finds a friend in Kayla, another Red like her. There reaches a point when neither can take the humiliation anymore. Their odyssey together is not without its struggles. Kayla makes Hannah realize the huge bubble she had lived in. Kayla is more "worldly," she knows about music and pop culture. Hannah is finally realizing it's time to go against everything she's been taught. They begin to wonder if a path together is right or wrong. What does the future hold? Does fear help?

"She'd been taught that free will was an illusion; that God had a plan for her and for everyone, a pre-mapped destiny. But if that were true, then He'd meant for her to get pregnant and have an abortion, to be chromed, to be despised and humiliated, kidnapped and almost raped. She saw suddenly that this was at the core of her loss of faith: a reluctance to believe in a God who was that indifferent or that cruel." Pg. 320-321

What I got out of the book overall is that once you let go of all the fear and propaganda, you can truly be free. It's disturbing to think that someone could be branded simply for having an abortion. Of course it sounds like an excellent idea for murderers and pedophiles, but once you start that where is the line drawn? This is a unique and interesting read, pick it up!!

Rating: O.M.G. !!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Algonquin Books) in exchange for an honest review.

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