When She Woke

A Novel

Jordan, Hillary

(Book - 2011)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
When She Woke
In the future, abortion has become a crime as a series of events threatens the existence of the United States. One woman wakes up to discover that her skin color has been changed to red as punishment for having the procedure done. Now she must embark on a dangerous journey in order to find refuge from a hostile and threatening society.
Publisher: Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 1565126297
Branch Call Number: FICTION JORDAN 2011
Characteristics: 344 p. ;,22 cm


From Library Staff

In the future, abortion has become a crime as a series of events threatens the existence of the United States. One woman wakes up to discover that her skin color has been changed to red as punishment for having the procedure done. Now she must embark on a dangerous journey in order to find refuge... Read More »

A future-set spin on "The Scarlet Letter," which questions how much trust we can place in the things we believed to be true.

From the critics

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Feb 14, 2015
  • kallithdragonna rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is an amazing book I read it in one sitting, I couldn't stop. Very reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, as well as The Scarlet Letter. Although this is so original you won't think of it as similar until you have read it and are looking at it more objectively. I recommend it to everyone.

Oct 15, 2013
  • vfryzek rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

The first 3 quarters were great. The last part felt rushed and a little confusing.
Still worth the read.

Aug 31, 2013
  • Vilka rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Advertised as a re-imagining of The Scarlet Letter. I HATED the Scarlet Letter with a passion; I devoured this book in 3 days. In the very near and familiar future USA, most criminals are not locked up--they are free within the community, but their skin is dyed a bright colour that corresponds with the category of their crime, so any stranger who sees them knows what they did. On top of that, any member of the public can find and track their physical location using internet or mobile apps. A VERY interesting look at the implications of such a system of public shaming; it takes on elements of suspense when the protagonist, a sheltered good-girl named Hannah, is dyed red--for murder--after aborting a child conceived out of wedlock with a man she refuses to name. The story starts right away, no lag, and though I don't agree with a couple of things Hannah does near the end (why would the author do that?), I still haven't had a read this enjoyable in a long time (gonna nag people to read it!).

Aug 15, 2013
  • KateHillier rated this: 4 stars out of 5.


"The Scarlet Letter re imagined via Margaret Atwood." Totally justified. This was a fantastic book. The world is so realistic and oh so close to being present day in so many ways that it is just as horrifying as 1984 or Brave New World and their ilk.

Hannah Payne has an abortion. For this act she is convicted of second degree murder. For ten years she is spend her life dyed stoplight Red to show others that she is a murderer. Because she refuses to identify the father and the abortionist six years are added to her sentence. She spends thirty days in solitary confinement while her every move is recorded and potentially broadcast to the nation. When she is released it is only a matter of time before she kills herself or whether she is killed in this deeply religious United States.

If you remove all the trimmings this is really a story of a young woman coming into her own. Hannah starts out as a sheltered, very Christian girl but slowly becomes an independent, open minded, warrior woman (at least I would consider her as such). It is a simple story at the core of this cautionary tale but it is the simplest stories that have the hardest impact and mean the most. Everything is so realistic, true, and honest. I was even sickened and terrified at specific bits of this world's history and practices. I did chuckle at Canada being where the Chromes headed and how we essentially are full out socialists in this universe. Love Quebec's role as well.

There was nothing about this book I did not enjoy - the one thing that worried me was leaving Becca at the hands of her abusive husband but what could Hannah have done and how long would she have lasted to get any sort of help. It's just another sad reality of the world and Hannah's status as a Red.

Read this. Read this now. That is really all I can say about it.

Aug 09, 2013
  • bwortman rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

A fascinating reinterpretation of The Scarlet Letter, Jordan creates a fascinating narrative that is equal parts character study and dystopian novel. The future she creates is fascinating in its explorations of the penal system and our culture's reactions to epidemics and terrorism. Hannah's growth as a character is fascinating as she explores who she is as a person, her view and relationship with God, and the actions she's taken in her own life. How the two intertwine makes for an engrossing read that raises questions for the reader that linger long after the last page.

Jul 31, 2013
  • _nessa_ rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I wish I could give this book two ratings - one for the first 2/3, and one for the last 1/3.

The first 2/3 was really good. The premise was interesting, the writing was great, the characters relatable...all the makings of a wonderful novel. However, the end fell apart. It seems like the author tried to cram a strange and complicated resolution into the last 80-100 pages, and it just really didn't work.
And (SPOILERS) I'm really not sure what the point of the lesbian sex scene was except for the fact that they wanted a lesbian sex scene. But, again, it really just seemed like a whole bunch of plot points thrown together.

So, overall, good novel, definitely worth the read, but don't expect a strong finish.

Feb 21, 2013
  • Suvorov1 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Review, part 1 ----- ADULT CONTENT. NOT FOR CHILDREN OR YOUNG ADULTS. ----- First, I want to be up front and say that this book is about abortion. It is basically pro-choice propaganda hiding behind the sub-genre of dystopian fiction. If you have a problem with that, don't read this book. ----- THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. I couldn't do it without spoilers. If you decide to read the review, you'll understand why. ----- In a retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Hillary Jordan's world presents us with Hannah Payne. In a futuristic United States, a new form of punishment for crimes has been established known as melachroming. Those who are convicted of crimes and who are not likely to be violent or repeat a violent act, are given a virus that turns their skin a different color based on their crime. Those accused of murder are melachromed red. In addition, most states have enacted the Sanctity of Life law that makes abortion a crime- murder. Hannah lives in Texas (of course) and her family belongs to a fanatically religious community. She begins an affair with their parish pastor and becomes pregnant, so she has an abortion and is caught. She is melachromed Red. When She Awoke tells the story of what happens to Hannah when she must go back out into society, branded with her crime. ----- This book is going to be a little difficult to review. As I always say, I review books based on how much I enjoy them and for the most part, I did enjoy When She Awoke. The problem is that rather than being just fiction, the book is primarily pro-choice propaganda. If the book had remained simply dystopian fiction, this would be a very different review. ----- The dystopian world Jordan sets up is intriguing. Religious fundamentalism seems to have taken over the government and abortion is now illegal, considered to be murder. Here's the problem- why just include abortion? This is why I say that the book is obviously propaganda. If it were truly intended as a dystopian fiction novel, adultery would have also been included as a crime, or homosexuality. But they're not. ----- After being released, Hanna's father takes her to a reeducation safe house called The Straight Path Center. This safe house and the two founders, the Henleys, are creepy. Creepy is good. But again, Jorden deserts this path too soon, totally abandoning a potentially weird and fascinating story. Jobs are posted on a board and there is the mysterious job assignment referred to only as Zilpah. Later, another Chrome named Kayla, tells Hannah the Zilpah job is just personal assistant stuff for Mrs. Henley. Wikipedia: "Zilpah also figures in the competition between Jacob's wives to bear him sons. Leah stops conceiving after the birth of her fourth son, at which point Rachel, who had not yet borne children, offers her handmaid, Bilhah, in marriage to Jacob so that she can have children through her. When Bilhah conceives two sons, Leah takes up the same idea and presents Zilpah as a wife to Jacob." I can't even begin to list all the creepy scenarios that could have come out of this. Yet after planting such a provocative mystery with Bridget telling Hannah she'll learn more about that job later, the author abandons it! WTH? Did she not understand the significance of using the name Zilpah? Jordan could have had a whole The Handmaid's Tale thing going on. So disappointing... ----- I am not able to post my complete review, so if you are interested, please message me and I will send you the link to my blog.

Dec 09, 2012
  • Ronb rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Great book. Texas - the future, and colouring people based on the crimes that they have committed.

Nov 06, 2012
  • (Staff) Elaine Bird rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This was a good read. I enjoyed following the tale of Hannah. I have to say I agree with others that the ending is just a bit to pat but the story was very entertaining.

Staff Review from St. Albert Summer Reading Game 2012:
An interesting twist on the the Scarlet Letter. In the near future, criminals are punished by being dyed a colour according to their crimes. Hannah must live her life "red" after being convicted of murdering her unborn child. The book feels a little shaky when Hannah joins a resistance group after enduring hardship...but a good read.

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Feb 21, 2013
  • Suvorov1 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Suvorov1 thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


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