“When she woke, she was red. Not flushed, not sunburned, but the sold declarative red of a stop sign. She saw he rhands first. She held them in front of her eyes, squinting up at them. For a few seconds, shadowed by her eyelashes and backlit by the hard white light emanating fom the ceiling, they appeared black. Then her eyes adjusted, and the illusion faded. She examined the backs, the palms. They floated above her, as starkly alien as starfish. She’d known what to expect — she’d seen Reds many times before, of course, on the street and on the vid — but still, she wasn’t prepared for the sight of her own changed flesh.”
When She Woke by Hilary Jordan
We aren’t sure how many years have passed but enough to know that life on Earth has greatly changed. Hannah Payne lives in a world where criminals are easy to detect as a new form of punishment has been devised: Chroming.
Chromes have their skin color altered to match the class of their crime. In Hannah’s case she’s been changed to a Red for committing murder. Her victim was her unborn child she chose to abort to protect the identity of the child’s father, a prominent married minister.
After spending time in the Chrome ward, Hannah is released but her struggles as a Chrome are about to begin. No one wants to deal with Chromes and Hannah realizes that this is the same for her family. While her dad still loves her, he can’t have her in their family home after what Hannah has done. So Hannah is sent to The Straight Path Center, a sort of rehab place where she will learn to atone for her sins along with other Chromes.
As time goes on rather than resigning to her fate, Hannah begins to question her faith and what the establishment considers right and wrong. She befriends another Chrome, Kayla, and as she learns why Kayla was Chromed she wonders at the justice of the system.
The start of the story is extremely compelling. You can’t wait to find out how the chroming process works and there’s an urgency to want to know how things are in this new world. Perhaps the one aspect that worked best for me though is that the book is set in Dallas, Texas, a place I know very well having lived there for many years. As she mentions streets and areas I’ve been to it certainly helped me see this new place, even if it was a very scary one indeed.
As the story progresses though I found I was getting a bit bombarded with some extreme characterizations. I wished some of the characters had shown perhaps how they believed in their faith but also didn’t like the way the system worked, or something along those lines. In any case, I do think this would be a great choice for a book discussion group as it will certainly make you think about hot button issues.
Source: Advance review copy