I branched out of my reading comfort zone with Hillary Jordan's When She Woke. Although I like to think of myself as a reader who will try anything, in reality I tend to nestle into realistic fiction the most. Out of all the literary genres, science fiction is my least explored. However, upon reading the synopsis for this book on the much-loved Goodreads site, I was automatically drawn to its dystopian premise and the correlation to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. There were enough realistic elements present to make me feel right at home in terms of reading within my comfort zone but the eerie confinements of a future society nudged me right over the threshold of the sci-fi world. A great way to ease into a new genre.
The setting is a future America where the divisions between church and state have been erased. Hannah Payne is a young woman whose life has revolved around church, family, and conformity. Being repressed by society, Hannah simply moves through the motions of her life, confident in her beliefs of what's right and what's wrong. Until one day she awakens in a prison cell, strapped to a table, her skin a bright crimson. Hannah is a Chrome. Chromes are criminals who are forced to have their bodies genetically altered to display the color of their crime. Reds are the worst of all criminals. Reds are murderers.
Hannah has been convicted of the murder of her unborn child. To complicate matters Hannah is keeping the identity of the father a secret because of his high-standing reputation within her community and eventually across the country. Their romance was a scandalous one. One that Hannah has paid the highest price for.
Hannah's journey takes her across the country in the hopes of escaping the cruel and stigmatizing treatment toward Chromes. Along the way she discovers fresh thoughts and feelings about life and love and freedom and realizes that what she once believed (was forced to believe) is no longer ringing true. Hannah is a woman fighting for her life. She's fighting for dignity. She's fighting for second chances. She's fighting for the truth.
Jordan's take on the classic Hawthorne novel is fresh and smart. Similar to The Scarlet Letter's Hester Prynne, Hannah Payne (notice the identical initials) morphs into an unlikely heroine. Readers undisturbed by the heavy issue of abortion will most likely be rooting for Hannah come the end of the novel. However, I can see where this story could ruffle the feathers of the more conservative thinkers of religion and abortion. To me, stories are a safe way to approach hot topics and allow yourself to see and feel from different perspectives. Whether you agree or disagree is not the point but that you are able to step into another's shoes and experience life's challenges through his or her eyes. Books allow us - no, ENCOURAGE us to do just that.
Are you a sci-fi lover? What are some of your favorite titles from the genre? As always, do share! I love "talking lit" with others.