Review: While We Run by Karen Healey

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

Review: While We Run by Karen HealeyWhile We Run by Karen Healey
Series: When We Wake #2
on May 27, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: BEA
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three-stars

Abdi Taalib thought he was moving to Australia for a music scholarship. But after meeting the beautiful and brazen Tegan Oglietti, his world was turned upside down. Tegan's no ordinary girl - she died in 2027, only to be frozen and brought back to life in Abdi's time, 100 years later.

Now, all they want is for things to return to normal (or as normal as they can be), but the government has other ideas. Especially since the two just spilled the secrets behind Australia's cryonics project to the world. On the run, Abdi and Tegan have no idea who they can trust, and when they uncover startling new details about Project Ark, they realise thousands of lives may be in their hands.

A suspenseful, page-turning sequel to When We Wake that will keep readers on the edge of their seats and make them call into question their own ideas about morality - and mortality, too.

Now that I’ve finished While We Run, I’m both admiring and a bit disappointed. So far as I can tell, this is a duology, though there’s room for more in this world if Healey decided to return to these characters. As it stands, I’d rank the When We Wake series very highly among the YA dystopian novels I’ve read. They’re very focused on the plot and world building, and, perhaps more importantly, they don’t follow the traditional YA path of revolution and happy ending. While We Run is a surprisingly dark tale of trying to change an evil government without resorting to equally horrific tactics.

For reasons that honestly aren’t clear to me, there’s a perspective switch in While We Run. The first book was from Tegan’s perspective, but now we’re in Abdi’s head. I can’t compare the narrative voices because it’s been too long, but if my engagement in the books is anything to go by Abdi is much more distancing. He’s not as emotional. He’s intelligent and calculating, so his thoughts are very focused on planning and not on feelings, which didn’t really draw me in.

The one thing Abdi’s perspective did allow for was to show the terror of the opening to full effect. He and Tegan were captured by SADU (government bad guys) at the end of book one. Now, they’re tortured and forced to perform. They’re being used to convince people to trust government programs they know are a trap. The torture is horrible, using their feelings for one another against them any time they don’t follow every rule. Even worse, View Spoiler »

The plot is really well-handled. The characters are very much idealists and are working to change the government, but they don’t want to resort to underhanded tactics to do so. They’re truly hoping to save as many as people as possible and just make life better. Tegan, like Katniss, has become the face of a revolution and is similarly hesitant about appearances; the difference, though, is that Tegan does want to be involved and does want to affect change. For Tegan, it’s not simply about survival but about improving the world around her. The tensions with Abdi, who mostly just wants himself, his friends, and his family out of harm’s way, are an interesting dynamic.

One of the big pluses of While We Run is how diverse it is in pretty much every way. Abdi himself is from Djibouti, but there are characters from several other places as well. There’s a lot of discussion of various religions. In the main characters, there are a couple of Muslim, a Catholic and an atheist (Abdi himself). Then there’s the former lesbian couple of Bethari and Joph, the latter of whom is transgender as well. As she says, she’s a “lesbian who was born male-bodied.” In every single one of these instances of diversity, the characters aren’t defined by these aspects of who they are. It’s very well done and I want to hug the book a lot for this.

By the time I got to While We Run, I have to say that When I Wake was a bit fuzzy. There’s enough recap that I wasn’t at sea, but I definitely lost some of my tie to the characters in the year long gap between books. It could be due to Abdi’s narration, I suppose, but the characters really stayed on the page. I didn’t feel for any of them. I didn’t ship Tegan and Abdi, though I know I did in When We Wake. The emotional component was entirely gone for me and it’s difficult for me to sustain interest in even the best plots without that connection.

The When We Wake trilogy is an excellent choice for readers looking for diversity or who enjoy books with a strong political focus. The world building and plot are very strong, as well.

Favorite Quote:

“I think that’s what life is, one beginning after another. But it’s really the middles that count—all the things we do with the middles of our lives.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif change is good but not easy lion king

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