“One by one, she conjured all the boxes she’d been put into: The good girl box and the good Christian box…the mistress box…the bad daughter and fallen woman boxes…She saw with a painful blaze of clarity that every one of these boxes had been of her own making, either by consent or lack of resistance. She had no right to bitterness; she had put herself in them. And she would get herself out, she vowed. And once she was out, she’d never willingly climb into another box again.” (When She Woke by Hilary Jordan)
When did dystopians exclusively become books about teens saving the world? It used to be that a dystopia was an almost philosophic work of fiction (think Utopia by Thomas Moore) where an element of society was drawn out to its extreme conclusion in order to illuminate the present. In the last few years, the genre has been mashed with action/YA/romance until it has become unrecognizable. When She Woke returns to the fundamentals of what a dystopia is – no one saves the world from itself, and the only battle fought is a personal one waged in the shifting morals of the main character.
When She Woke is truly a work about female empowerment, specifically as concerns sexuality, that just happens to be set in an ultra-religious future. The futuristic technology, new forms of judicial punishment, and sterilizing plague, are all just window dressings to the classic tale of a woman realizing that she can have control over her own life. I always appreciate a story such as this, because it makes you think: if this person, in this situation, could take control, what more can I be doing to shape my life?
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Length: 344 pgs.
Ending: Beautiful and Satisfying
Further Reading: The work contains references to The Scarlet Letter, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and The Handmaid’s Tale, and they should all be read if you haven’t already had the pleasure.