This book was on one of those shelves with a huge sign, “If you liked The Handmaid’s Tale, check out these titles!” How could I refuse?

When She Woke

Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family. But after she’s convicted of murder, she awakens to a nightmarish new life. She finds herself lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes—criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime—is a sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red for the crime of murder. The victim, says the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a fierce and forbidden love. – Goodreads

I read this book in a single sitting – it was heavy, but pretty interesting. The similarities with The Handmaid’s Tale are certainly there, but this book is much more focused on religion and punishment. It got a bit too preachy at times, which definitely slowed down the pace quite a bit. Hannah’s journey was emotional, gritty and full of self reflection which was great, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Don’t expect a lot of action!

Jordan’s world building is fantastic, and her characters are complex and deeply flawed. I found myself very frustrated with Hannah’s family, and their rigid inability to grow and change. But Hannah herself does, and comes out stronger for her trials.

The story ends with hope, but not full resolution, which is my favourite kind of ending. That left me curious and thinking about Hannah’s future long after I had put the book down. I wish for a sequel, even though I know it shouldn’t really have one!

3.5/5