Meagan’s Dystopic Pick:
(HarperCollins Canada, 2011)
One of the reasons I love dystopic fiction is that it can take place in a future where the world is nearly unrecognizable (Brave New World), or in the more chilling cases- it doesn’t seem that far off our own. “When She Woke” is one of the latter. In a close but undated future, only criminals who pose a serious threat to society are kept in prisons for extended periods of time. Others, such as Hannah, have their skin tinted a vivid color matching their crime (red for murder, for example) and become outcasts and often targets of violent crimes. Many do not survive the length of their sentence.
Hannah’s crime is that she had an abortion, which have been made highly illegal in Jordan’s future, and is found guilty of murder. Instead of fighting to survive as a Chrome, Hannah opts for a dangerous journey to a rebel outpost that offers safety and a way to remove the dye from her skin.
“When She Woke” takes strong influence from “The Scarlet Letter” and “A Handmaid’s Tale”, and weaves a new and even more terrifying future where genetic modification, death, and complete loss of human rights, security, and life lurk around every corner. This was a chilling read, and it should be clearly stated that like “Handmaid’s Tale”, women’s rights and reproductive rights, are at the center of this chilling novel. But the main message of the story is that not all crimes are worth complete social expulsion, but there should be room for forgiveness.