Book Thoughts: When We Wake by Karen Healey

(**I read this title on Netgalley through the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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? Award-winning author Karen Healey has created a haunting, cautionary tale of an inspiring protagonist living in a not-so-distant future that could easily be our own.

Stories dealing with cryogenics interest me. The first time I read about this process was in the Artemis Fowl series, and then again in Across the Universe. I decided I was going to read When We Wake before I even finished the summary. And man, am I happy that I chose to read this book.

Fourteen pages into the book, I decided the plot was very original. I knew that the protagonist was going to die, be cryogenically frozen, and then brought back to life. What I didn’t know was how that was going to actually play out. How is it suddenly decided that a body will be frozen without prior agreement? The author answers my question by introducing the story that way. Before her death, Tegan agrees to donate her body to science, not realize how widespread the word ‘research’ constitutes to. Maybe this idea is obvious to everyone else, but this absolutely blew my mind. Never once did I think that cryogenics was a possible option. Honestly, this book made me re-think the ‘donating my body to science’ deal…

Forty-six pages into the book, I realized that this book was getting major points in my mind due to the diversity of the characters. It’s not just one token character either; multiple characters are of different nationalities. Even when a nationality wasn’t specified, I was able to take a guess because the characters also have names that pertain to certain nationalities. I am happy to say that When We Wake is the first book I have read with characters that are Muslim. Characters plural.

As much as I loved the other characters in the book, I did enjoy Tegan a lot. She breaks the girl-protagonist norms by being confident with herself and her body. Instead of saying that every other girl is much more beautiful than she is, she calls herself attractive and says that she has a good body. She’s also honest; she admits that having guys not notice her assets were kinda weird. Even if she sounded a little conceited, I didn’t notice because I was too busy smiling at the fact that she valued herself. There needs to be more YA girls like her.

Another great aspect of the plot is Tegan and Abdi’s relationship. Yes, there is romance in this novel. But what I liked about their relationship is that it’s approached in a different way than most books. Abdi doesn’t like Tegan at first. Then they manage to become acquaintances, then friends, and so on. They gradually get closer as the novel goes on, their relationship building as the story does.

The issues mentioned/dealt with in this novel are realistic portrayals of our world. The story isn’t a light read by any means, but the topics are written in a way that it’s meaningful and powerful, while the reader is being entertained and getting lost in the plot. Today’s society has come closer to equality and dealing with certain issues, but nothing is perfect. And nothing will ever be, as shown in When We Wake. Even in the future, we’ll be fighting for more equality, or battling for morality and saving our planet. When We Wake is a really great book to divulge on huge topics without certain views being shoved down your throat.

If you didn’t notice already, I really got into When We Wake. I actually didn’t remember who the author was until I realized I tried to read one of her books a few years ago. Even though I didn’t end up finishing her other one, I am glad to say I found When We Wake to be a lot better. If you’re someone who is passionate about the world and issues we deal with, I definitely recommend this novel to you.


One thought on “Book Thoughts: When We Wake by Karen Healey

  1. Wow, nice! Have you read Karen’s previous books? I have to admit I couldn’t really get into either of them, which is why I was okay with not reading this one. However, I do know what you mean about Karen’s writing strengths, especially in the diversity of her characters. Waaaay more writers need to be aware of this and not just throw in token POCs, but actually work diversity into the world of the story. Thanks for the thorough review!

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