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Book Review: When We Wake

Summer Read #2 - frozen Australian teen girl faces dystopian future but still finds time to fall in love.

Karen Healey's When We Wake is told by the book's main character Tegan, a sixteen year old girl who likes the Beatles. Her tale is often divided into seemingly different vantage points that combine into a singular moment at the book's conclusion. Readers join Tegan as she tries to make sense of a futuristic world.

One day Tegan was a happy teen on her way to a protest rally with friends, when she is shot dead, only to be revived over a hundred years later. While Healey's futuristic world is different it still remains plausible. Sprinklings of scientific terminology allow readers to believe cryogenics could work but it's the same teenager social struggles and uncertainties that draw readers in.

The book was a fast paced read, due to the short segments dividing each chapter. While looking to the future, the book delivers a clear commentary on global climate change, religious tolerance and gay rights. Each chapter contained at least one expletive and there is a bit of violence, though not gory or gruesome. The main character is not beyond exploring her romantic feelings or questioning how her appearance makes others feel about her. While not overly provocative, parents should be aware of mild sexual themes throughout the book.

In many ways I was reminded of Huxley's Brave New World. The main character is thrust into understanding a foreign world filled with drugs, sexual freedom, universal media attention and sinister undercurrents; just add ice, ecological crisis and water it down for a younger audience. But it's not the events of the future that carry the story along, it's our affection for Tegan, our understanding how she feels and wanting her to persevere. As she says repeatedly, it's her story.

Also, parents should be aware of the homosexual agenda and ecological messages woven underneath. They are often presented as truth with little question to their veracity, as they form the setting for events to play upon. Some readers may find hope in Healey's future world, while others may be horrified. Tegan struggles to understand events in light of her nominal Roman Catholic beliefs, but finds little more than comfort in her faith choosing instead to act impetuously.

Overall, the book was compelling and well written. I enjoyed reading it and looked forward to seeing how everything resolved in the end. I could have done without the occasional expletives. If this book were a movie, it would probably be rated PG for mild language. For extra fun, listen to the Beatles song referenced be each chapter's title.

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