When She Woke

  • by Hillary Jordan
  • Narrated by Heather Corrigan
  • 10 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Hannah Payne awakens to a nightmare. She is lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home. She is now a convicted criminal, and her skin color has been genetically altered. Her crime, according to the State of Texas: the murder of her unborn child, whose father she refuses to name. Her color: red. The color of newly shed blood.
In Hannah's America, sometime in the future, faith, love, and sexuality have fallen prey to politics. Convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated, but "chromed", forced to appear in a new and sinister form of reality TV, and released back into the population. Stigmatized in a hostile world, they must survive the best they can.
Until her arrest, Hannah had devoted her life to church and family. In seeking a path to safety, she is forced to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes the personal.

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What the Critics Say

"Jordan blends hot-button issues such as the separation of church and state, abortion, and criminal justice with an utterly engrossing story, driven by a heroine as layered and magnetic as Hester Prynne herself." (Booklist [HC starred review])

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Thoughtful Dystopia

I saw it promoted as a "reimagining" of The Scarlet Letter - which, let's face it, is quite a tall order - but it seems to me as if Hillary Jordan used The Scarlet Letter only as a fruitful springboard and inspiration. She isn't slavishly devoted to the text, although she certainly paid tribute to some of the Hawthorne's key insights into the human condition. This is all to the good.

Although the novel wasn't marketed as a "young adult dystopia," it easily fits into that category, as twenty-something Hannah Payne experiences a true coming of age as she grows into and accepts herself.

Set in a not-too-distant future United States that suffers from excessive surveillance, moral superiority, and inhumane "justice" (creating the dyed "Chromes" whose bodies telegraph their crimes), the novel manages to achieve a number of impressive objectives. Hannah is a deeply sympathetic character who gradually becomes aware of how small her world has been, and how many "boxes" she's willingly confined herself in (mentally, spiritually, and physically) over her young life. We experience the unfairness and brutality of her sentencing and ostracism, and yet the horror of what she chose to do -- abort the baby of a famous married minister -- is never underplayed. Despite the fact Hannah rejects the unquestioning fundamentalism of her upbringing, she fully embraces the central importance of religious faith in her life.

Every time I expected Jordan to descend into stereotypes -- about Southerners, Christians, straight or gay people, men or women, those who are made victims or those who refuse to become so -- she instead offered layered and complex characterizations and thought-provoking twists. The father who is loyal to his traditional church and nuclear family is painted with sensitivity, as is the lesbian revolutionary and her dedication to the underground movement that opposes the status quo. Even the weak-willed minister, the father to Hannah's unborn baby, is poignant in his shame, self-loathing, and lack of moral courage.

There are some true villains, but all of them are opportunists who exploit the system(s) for their own perverse and personal enjoyment of control over those who have no recourse or self-defense. In the end, this dystopia challenges us to examine our assumptions and to accept responsibility for our lives, souls, and decisions. I appreciate Jordan's ability to critique the deeply flawed institutions humans have created without casually dismissing the reasons they came to exist in the first place.

This novel is challenging in the questions it raises and unflinching in its warnings, as any quality dystopia should be. I'm very glad that I listened to it.
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- Amy

What A Ride

An unbelievable roller coaster of emotions. Being transported into a completely different world through beautifully described passages. Even the the people who are a tiny blip in the grand scheme of the story have deep character. At times a challenge to get through due to subject matter, it was a challenge I enjoyed. It took me out of my comfort zone, made me think, and put me right there by Hannah's side. This book will have a permeate spot on my iPod.
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- Victoria

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-14-2011
  • Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books