Book Review: When She Woke

In this re-imagining of “The Scarlet Letter,” Hester Prynne becomes Hannah Payne and instead of a simple letter sewn onto her clothes her public shame takes the form of chroming, where a criminal’s skin is altered to match the color of their crime and then they are released into the world.  Needless to say, this is a futuristic adaptation of the novel, but the themes are as relevant as ever.

We have moved West, leaving the puritanical Boston of the original behind for a modern, evangelical Texas. When Hannah is released from prison, her red skin (for murder) is a target for harassment.  She must navigate a world where it is impossible to fade into a crowd and dueling organizations (one reminiscent of the KKK, the other of the underground railroad) let her know just how prevalent racial tensions are.  Between the existence of crazy date rape drugs and a raging war on abortion, the theme of women’s rights is at the forefront of this novel.

Adaptations of such lauded works often turn cheesy, but I found Hillary Jordan’s novel to be an inspired take on a classic.  Though set in the future, it still manages to feel very realistic and would certainly inspire conversation.

4 out of 5 stars.