Review: “When We Wake” by Karen Healey

11544476Title: “When We Wake”

Author: Karen Healey

Genre: YA, dystopian, sci-fi, mystery

Publication Date: March 5, 2013 (LBFYR – North America)

Source: NetGalley Review Copy

Summary: My name is Tegan Oglietti, and on the last day of my first lifetime, I was so, so happy.

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027–she’s happiest when playing the guitar, she’s falling in love for the first time, and she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice.
But on what should have been the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies–and wakes up a hundred years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened. Tegan is the first government guinea pig to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived, which makes her an instant celebrity–even though all she wants to do is try to rebuild some semblance of a normal life. But the future isn’t all she hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future?

☆: 3/5 stars – a solid dystopian novel, but I just expected more.

Review: I really liked the premise behind this one, guys, and it’s a solid dystopian read, but I just kind of expected more out of it and didn’t really felt like it could have delivered as much as it could have. There’s nothing worse than wasted potential, and I hope by the time this gets pubbed, there will have been one more pass over it. I really liked “When We Wake”, but I do feel that it could have been so much more. But it’s definitely a great book to introduce to younger YA readers who are just getting their feet wet in the dystopian pool.

Okay, so, I love any kind of fairy retelling, even if it’s by accident. Here, we have a sort-of retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but there’s no kiss, just cryogenics. Which was awesome. There’s also a lot on bio-ethics in this book that gets explored, as well as class warfare and the environment. Make no mistake: with the sheer amount of ground it tries to cover, “When We Wake” is extremely ambitious. And in a lot of these aforementioned areas, Healey covers things quite well.
However, I do feel like most of the technical issues needed work – I wanted a lot more sensory imagery and language (when she chooses to use it, Healey is really, really good at it) instead of telling, which happened for a lot of the book. Only towards the end did we really get a good, solid feel and visualization of the world and how far the environment has degraded, instead of just pale descriptions of it. The worldbuilding itself needed some major work, and not just with the sensory area – while we get a good sense of things with the technology and the language changes, along with political changes within the 100+ years Tegan’s been asleep, it’s not entirely coherent enough to feel like a complete world. But it’s a start.

The arc/plot area with its transitions got a bit fuzzy, too (right around where Tegan gets abducted). The transitions desperately needed work, especially towards the end, when we get some of the Big Reveals (which really, I wanted more mystery and originality with – a lot of these reveals were more than a bit obvious and have been done before), and I hope those got one more good edit before going out for publication. Things got a bit confusing toward the end, and I wish that’d been cleared up a bit better.
Perhaps Healey’s strongest area was character building. She did a great job with the entire main cast, though Tegan was the strongest character out of the bunch (as a good MC should be). What I did want was a little bit more balancing of the main cast from Tegan’s original pre-cryo time as opposed to how solid the main cast was in the future/present post-cryo period, things were otherwise good, and everyone worked pretty well together. I’m still not entirely sure why the Inheritors were such an important piece of things (perhaps as a plot device to reveal the other part of Project Ark?) and I don’t really think they merited such importance, but that’s just me.

What I really wanted less of was the preachiness that Healey gave us about how badly the environment was deteriorating in those hundred plus years of sleep, even if we couldn’t see it with the telling over showing that happened. We get it – things are bad, wars are being fought over water, and it’s all kind of going to hell. The environment is shot. I feel like Healey was kind of hitting us all over the head with it through Tegan’s narrative, and I really hate it when authors do that. For the next book (which I’m definitely interested in, by the way), it’ll be interesting if there will be more of the same. I really hope not. James Dashner managed to get across how bad things were getting in “The Kill Order” without preaching to the audience. I advise Healey take a page from his book, study his technique in order not to further alienate the audience in the sequel to this book.

However, I do have to give to to Healey for getting the conversation started about bio-ethics – which I feel is really important for YA, in terms of what may happen with our own science in the future. So good going there.

Otherwise, final verdict? This is a great book to get young YA readers to read when they’re just dipping their toes into the dystopian pool. For older readers, you may want to search elsewhere – even though this is a very solid book, I just kind of expect more out of dystopian/biopunk YA at this point. But that’s just how I see it. “When We Wake” is out now from Little, Brown for Young Readers in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!

2 thoughts on “Review: “When We Wake” by Karen Healey

  1. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: Week 38 | birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: Usagi’s challenges for 2013 | birth of a new witch.

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