This year, to prepare myself for the hype, I read The Hunger Games trilogy. Surprising myself, I gobbled the three books in 9 days, and enjoyed some parts immensely, in the way you would a light dystopian young adult novel. I enjoyed it, though I felt as the trilogy progressed that it focused more on the love triangley situation than the political one which leads the story.
When my friend Laura G. told me about a book called When She Woke, I hadn’t heard of the author Hillary Jordan or the book. But I like recommendations by friends, especially if they are in the category of “I-thought-of-you-a-lot-while-I-was-reading-it – in the way that I was constantly like, ‘Oh, I think Sirin would like this!'”. Indeed, she was right, I liked it and it was a lot to think about.
To learn more about the books, please check the these two book covers.I don’t really want to review the books, but more write a few things that I thought about after finishing Jordan’s book. Some interesting similarities and differences kept poking my head.
Strong Female Characters
My first point is obvious; both books focus on strong female characters. Even though THG is told from the perspective of Katniss, and Hannah’s story from the third person, both female characters start out unsure and evolve into young women who realize more and more the things that are wrong in the world.
Interestingly, their lives have been both very limited. Katniss works to keep her family alive and fed, limited to her mining district, her only relief going out to the woods and hunting, which is also the key to her survival.
Hannah, on the other hand, is limited by the state she lives in, which is dominated by a heavily Christian mind-set, but also her parents who would not send her to university even with a scholarship, who limit her in many ways. Her only relief is making dresses, even if she cannot wear them. Though it is not key to her survival, it is what keeps her alive in her “district”, it is her passion.
Both books’ dystopian futures touch upon nuclear powers, but in different ways. In THG, District 13 is the district with nuclear powers, so when it rebels, The Capitol eventually leaves it alone, declaring the district wiped out. They are a consistent threat for the Capitol, a ticking time bomb if not handled carefully.
In WSW, it has already happened. In the not so distant past, Los Angeles is the victim of a nuclear bomb, leaving the LA and surroundings a nuclear waste, causing quite a lot of changes in the environment.
Both female characters are recruited by rebel groups. Katniss is recruited by District 13’s president to be the face of the rebellion, and is used for propaganda and as an image of hope, but Katniss soon discovers that it is not that easy. The rebel president has her own agenda, and possibly not any better than President Snow, and the book ends to reflect Katniss’ strength to recognize that.
Hannah is recruited by a feminist rebel group, who is helping women in Hannah’s situation – convicted and chromed for having abortions – and getting them safely to Canada where they can be unchromed and start a new life. Hannah discovers, in the wake of her journey, that the rebels are ruthless when it comes to people being liabilities and killing those who betray them. She also discovers that not all that seem to be devoted to the cause are what they seem, and hopefully learns to be wary of all.
I said I wouldn’t review the books, and I am not exactly reviewing, but I also felt that both books got weaker towards the end. While WSW starts out with a very well laid out dystopian society that disgusted me and gave me chills because I thought it could easily be possible, as the end got nearer, the plot started to unfold in a rather simple way. I remember looking at the amount of pages I had left, and thinking “how will this resolve in so little space?”.
With THG, the dystopian society always felt like just the backdrop, not the actual story. Throughout the three books it didn’t feel like the politics or the history that brought the districts to where they are was explained enough, only touched upon at the surface. It is even more unfortunate that the film adaptation of the first book is a blunder of images, not even touching upon the back story in order to show all the action with no proper plot.
That said, both books are quick reads and good ones, and definitely discussion-worthy with friends who have read them.