Tuesday, March 5, 2013

WHEN SHE WOKE by Hilary Jordan

When She Woke  by Hillary Jordan

5 stars

I really liked this book. There was so much to think about. First, it was not just the "red" but also the loss of privacy, the constant monitoring, then being ejected back in to the world as a changed person with the mark of evil on you.
I must admit I wanted to know what crimes resulted in other colors. Even though you could figure a few out I really wanted more information.

The phrase "it's personal" evolved throughout the book just as Hannah evolved into a different person. At first it was simply a password but became a definition of Hannah as a person who was able to think for herself and structure her own life. When it is used at the end to allow her to enter Canada it symbolizes her journey as well as her identity as separate from her parents, her religion, and most definitely from Aiden.

The author appears to advocate for abortion rights, but also presents the heartbreak and ambivalance  abortion can cause. She seems to denigrate organized religion, but then shows a sympathy for and an understanding of faith as a good thing. She presents the "trinity party" and its authoritarian stance as bad, but then presents a very strict authoritarian figure (Simone) as good and just. The book presents a very conflicted view of many aspects of society, so perhaps Jordan is just presenting the "American acceptance of tolerance without condemnation" to the extreme.

I did think melachroming was a good solution until I saw the devastation it caused. Hannah, of course, was presented as "innocent" by our present standards which made her a sympathetic character. The way that those who were melachromed were made part of a caste of new untouchables made me rethink my position. I was especially struck by the melachromed "criminals" who acted in ways more "Christian" than those who were supposedly more enlightened. I started thinking in more racist terms as the book progressed. I expected to make the comparison to The Scarlet Letter, but I was not prepared for the rather shocking racist feelings that were aroused in the characters by the color punishments. I have often thought that a loss of shame was a bad thing: however, the unending, unyielding shame that relentlessly pervaded Hannah's life made me wonder anew. I was struck by the chromes who aided and helped Hannah.  The various colors had an affinity for others no matter what their color was. It was surprising to see this "color prejudice" through Hannah's eyes when she was more fearful of some colors

I wondered how those who had been melachromed reacted when their coloring was reversed and they were able to return to "normal" society. I wondered if they could return to "normal" if they would form a new political party to overthrow the oppressive regime Hannah lived under. Hmmm, maybe an idea for a sequel????

The only truly unsympathetic character was Stanton. He was despicable.  Aiden was Somewhat sympathetic when telling of his thwarted desire for children, but then was he telling the truth? He reminded me of Jimmy Swaggert and other televangelists who strayed and begged forgiveness but were actually self serving.  He was happy to have money and power and a "girl on the side", but when the girl threatened his comfort he was eager to consign her to shame, poverty, danger and demented ministrations of the Henley's to save his own skin (a deliberate use of that word!).

I would like to see a sequel to find out how Kayla made her escape. I felt this was a really weak story line - she was in dire danger and then she gets to Canada before Hannah apparently unscathed and with a hale and hearty Paul.  Huhhh    How did that happen???

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