Review: When We Wake

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: When We WakeWhen We Wake by Karen Healey
Series: When We Wake #1
on March 5, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 296
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027โ€”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 diesโ€”and wakes up a hundred years later, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened.

The future isn't all she had 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 world?

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.

First Sentence: “My name is Tegan Oglietti.”

Just yesterday, series information was added to Goodreads for When We Wake. I’m so glad that happened before I wrote up this review, because, honestly, the open-ended ending might have left me rather unsatisfied if I didn’t know there was going to be more. Plus, I’m just excited there will be more, because When We Wake was a delight all the way through, populated with lovable characters, science-fictiony goodness, and references to The Beatles.

Before I get into the serious plot stuff, I have to talk about all of The Beatles love in this book. My parents raised me on music from the 60s and 70s, so, though I’m not a child of that age, I sure do know most of the music, and The Beatles have always been amongst my favorites, even if my favorite album changes through the years. Every chapter title is a Beatles song, but the references go much deeper than that, and you better believe I adore every single one. The songs do even serve a plot point, providing a link to her old life and a way to connect with the people of 2128 through music.

Tegan makes a wonderful heroine. Awakened over a hundred years after her last memory and informed of her death and revival, she is, understandably, freaked. However, after some time to mourn over her old life, she makes the best out of her new situation. She is helpful, hopeful, loving, determined, and sarcastic. Her voice thoughout When We Wake is a delight, and I connected to her immediately, not just because of her love of The Beatles.

Reviving Tegan a century later enables Healey to impart information to the reader in a logical way. Tegan really does not know anything about the world she’s in and can ask questions and receive answers without it feeling like an infodump. Healey uses the device to the fullest and spaces out Tegan’s education well. Healey does not feel the need to drop everything on the reader all at once, taking breaks for character development or to talk about less serious things like slang or toilets (in this future, people poo into compost buckets).

What makes this novel stand out from many others is that the society in which Tegan awakes really does seem to verge on utopian for quite a while. Sure, it’s not completely perfect, but it seems largely better than the past. The world has warmed due to the depletion of the ozone layer, but mankind is now living in such a way as to diminish the negative effects on the environment. Homosexual love is now valued just as highly as heterosexual love, something our society really needs to learn to accept. The more Tegan learns, the more negatives appear in this future world, including continued racial tensions.

When We Wake, though not focused on romance, does have a couple of very sweet relationships. Tegan develops a crush on a Abdi, a musically-gifted, clever boy from Djibouti. Watching them slowly overcome the difficulties their situations (he’s a thirdie – from the third world – and she’s the Living Dead Girl) place on a relationship is adorable. I also really love Joph and Bethari, and I hope those girls can work out their issues and get back together.

The only thing missing from the novel for me were high enough stakes. There’s some action and they are in danger, but, for whatever reason, they never felt especially imperilled. Perhaps this is due to the lack of death toll in the novel, or the narrative device whereby the entirety of the book is a broadcast being issued live by Tegan, since that means she survives to the end. In the sequel, I hope to see more from the dystopian government, so that I can really feel scared for Tegan and her friends.

Karen Healey was unknown to me prior to When We Wake, but I will definitely be reading more of her books, including the sequel to this novel. When We Wake is a must-read for Beatles fans and for those who enjoy dystopian stories that don’t focus entirely on romance.

Favorite Quote:

“‘And then what?’ she demanded.
‘Classified.’ My whole body was buzzing with the memory.
‘Teeg, I will kill you and sink the corpse in the river.’
I snorted. ‘What river?’ The Yarra ran through the city, but you couldn’t hide a body in that shallow brown flow.
‘I will dig a river and fill it with my tears, because I will be weeping from the betrayal of my best friend not giving me every damn detail!'”

41 responses to “Review: When We Wake”

  1. Oh good, I am bored of romantic dystopians. I mean, okay that’s a lie, I enjoy the hook ups. Still, it’s nice when books cover more than that. The concept behind When We Wake sounds good — being woken up in the future and having no idea what the eff is going on. Also cool seeing how on some issues we finally got our shit together, but on others it’s still a struggle. I will have to definitely add this to my TBR as the Beatles are fricken awesome and I like characters with good music taste.

    • Christina says:

      LOL. April. You’re hilarious. I am also tired of them but not. I’m tired of the crappy ones.

      YES to The Beatles. They’re the best. I almost could not have disliked this with all the Beatles references, but it was good on top of that. Holla!

  2. Audra says:

    Living Dead Girl?! EW. And yet…I’m curious…

  3. I love that the love interest is from Djibouti! Automatic read for that right there.

    So the Beatles are still popular a hundred years from now? That’s awesome!!

    • Christina says:

      Me too! And he’s great! The diversity made me so happy.

      Also, apparently. Well, actually, they’re only known to people REALLY into music, but at least they’re still around!

  4. Janeal Falor says:

    I’m loving the quote from the book. Makes me want to get to know the characters. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Bonnie R says:

    Compost buckets? My but that sounds fun. I can’t help being intrigued by this one but I thought it was one of those rare stand-alones! Shucks. Great review though!

  6. I have been staying away from dystopian lately because, like April, I’m bored. BUT when I read that this was about a cryogenically frozen girl I was all, “hold the phone” because I most certainly have not read anything like this one. I’m glad there’s at least some romance because I personally need even just a little bit of that in the books I read. I don’t know how I feel about it being a series (I don’t like series), but I’m sure I’ll read it anyways because from your review it sounds like something I’d like.

    • Christina says:

      Ooh, well, then you definitely need to check it out. I’ve read that premise in A Long, Long Sleep as well, which also rocks.

      I love for there to be romance, at least a hint of it, in my books. It’s just nice to have a couple to root for!

  7. Heidi says:

    I was raised on music from that era as well! Total Beatles fan–but I would have wanted to read this one regardless. The idea is one I’ve seen in graphic novels before, but I’m really excited to see a different take on it and in full novel format where it’ll really be flushed out.

  8. Molli Moran says:

    To be honest, I hadn’t even considered reading this one until this review. The synopsis didn’t really “grab” me. But reading your review, it sounds like it might be kinda b-a! I love that music plays such a huge, pivotal role in the book – that’s all sorts of awesome. And I like that we see the futuristic world through the eyes of the MC, so it probably feels very real and genuine. I will have to keep an eye out for this one…

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

  9. Katie says:

    I have been really eager to read this one since I enjoyed Healey’s previous books. From your review I think I’ll really enjoy this one. I like that the romance isn’t a central focus (because I don’t think that should ever be a central focus in a dystopian). Also, it sounds like such an interesting world. I’m sad the stakes aren’t very high or exciting but I’ll definitely still check this out. Great review!

    • Christina says:

      Ooh, glad to hear Healey’s previous books rock too, as I haven’t heard much about them. Romance should not be the central focus of a dystopia, I agree. It’s nice to have a little bit, but if the world building definitely needs to take a front seat.

  10. Renae M. says:

    Hmm, well. I don’t listen to The Beatles except when they’re on the radio, but hopefully that won’t ruin how I feel about this book when it gets down to it. It better not, at least. I’m definitely really intrigued by the whole concept, and though I’m not thrilled about this being a series because the industry is milking the franchise cow for all its worth nowadays, it still sounds promising. Here’s hoping!

    • Christina says:

      SHOCK. I can’t even. I don’t think it’s incomprehensible if you don’t love The Beatles, you just won’t be squeeing over the references.

      True about series books. It does seem like there’s room for more here, though, and it didn’t really feel like Healey was stalling for time.

  11. Kelly says:

    Will you hate me forever if I admit I’m not a Beatles fan? Like, at all?


    Everything else sounds really good though! I like the idea of a utopian-esque future that slowly reveals itself to be less than perfect!

    • Christina says:

      *cries* That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. You don’t like ANY of their songs? They have so many different feels!

      Yes, I loved that the society actually seemed good, because so many of them it’s like “really, you couldn’t tell the government was evil? REALLY?”

  12. Tez Miller says:

    Great to hear this book worked for you, too! Turns out the Yarra in 2027 is just as tripe as it is now in 2013 ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Natalie R says:

    Definitely adding this book to my TBR list! It’s getting longer and longer by the minutes!! This will be very near to the top though. The concept of this book is really interesting though – dying, then being revived 100 years later and being completely unaware of how life is now. And I’m also pleased with the fact that this isn’t a completely romance based dystopian novel, I need a break from those… in a way ๐Ÿ˜› and finally, THE BEATLES!!!!! That totally sold this book for me, 100%! Thanks for your great review!

    • Christina says:

      Long TBRs are happy TBRs. Much better than not having anything to read! I really liked the concept a lot, and the way she balanced the romance and dystopian elements. YEAH, THE BEATLES!

  14. Kayla Beck says:

    I’ve barely paid attention to this novel (the cover… *shudders*), but your review has made me interested. It reminds me a bit of Across the Universe with the cryo and Beatles, but that’s just going by your description.

    • Christina says:

      You don’t like the cover? I think it’s cool! Hmmm, it’s more comparable to A Long, Long Sleep with added Beatles references, but I see where AtU is the more obvious comparison.

    • Kayla Beck says:

      I think a lot of it being white. I’m color-sensitive during my migraine seasons, and I try to avoid anything bright. And maybe the color is a little boring. Meh. I’m just a grump. As for the book similarities, I may think otherwise after I read it. I haven’t read A Long, Long Sleep either. I think I bought it the other day, though. *ponders*

      That being said, I should go to meetings about this book buying addiction. I am probably single-handedly keeping the publishing industry alive.

    • Christina says:

      Oh dear. A book cover can set off a migraine? That’s awful.

      You should read A Long, Long Sleep! It’s so amazing. You keep the book industry alive. Love you for that!

  15. Happy to see that you had much better luck with this one than I did. I loved the chapter titles too and found myself singing at the beginning of each one LOL. A lot of the book felt like it was a bit preachy about how we are living wrong and how it will affect us in the future and I mean it’s probably true, but that’s just not why I read. I dunno, I think I will definitely read the sequel though because I am VERY curious about where it is going to go, you know, now that there is one.

    • Christina says:

      Awww, I can see where it would feel preachy to you, but it didn’t hit me that way. I think it was the heroine’s voice that kept me from feeling that way. I don’t really know. I’m not sure where it will go from here, either. Curious!

  16. Sweet! I love the dystopian trend and am glad to hear that the world is done well here – also thanks for the heads up on the fact that there’ll be more. I just got this in this week and am looking forward to it. I’ll have to get to it as soon as possible!

  17. Kat Balcombe says:

    Yessssssssss! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, because it sounds like something I would love too! Although I’ll probably end up singing the chapter headings as well….

  18. This sounds like something I would enjoy. I love stories with time/travel or similar elements. I know that this is not real time travel but it’s close enough – girl from present discovers future society and technology.
    I will have to freshen up my knowledge of The Beatles lyrics before reading though. Thanks for the warning. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, not exactly time travel, but I think it’s a sort of parallel. A person out of their own time and in an unfamiliar world.

      Freshening up knowledge of the Beatles sounds like a super fun project.

  19. Vivien says:

    This is great news ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve had this one on my wishlist for a few months. This sounds like a great new series to get into. I’ll be sure to read it!

  20. Were you like me, totally looking up the science behind cryonics and tardigrades and such stuff after reading this book?? I loved trying to figure out what was fact and was Healey’s imagination. Sci fi books are so much fun! I can’t rush to GR and check out the updated series info (because the damn site has been down, like, ALL day) but I too am really glad to hear there will be more books and Tegan’s story will continue.

    • Christina says:

      Ha, in this case I was NOT like you. I’m awful at science, so the bits in fiction are about all I can handle. I love science fiction too, but I tend to go with my gut instinct. This makes sense to me and this doesn’t, though I’m often wrong.

      There is another one. Yay!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge