When We Wake – Karen Healey

About the Book

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 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.

304 pages (hardcover)
Published on March 5, 2013
Published by Little Brown for Young Readers
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher. 

The first thing I need to address with When We Wake is the cover. Absolutely gorgeous cover. I love it. LOVE. IT. I wanted to read this book as soon as it arrived on my doorstep purely because of the cover. Great artwork, and the second book in the series, While We Run is just as catching. I love this kind of cover art, and I love it on a young adult book. I rarely see such gripping covers on young adult books, and I’m not sure why, but it was an incredibly wise move for the publisher to make a move in this direction. It helped them get someone like me (who isn’t that into YA) anxious to read this book.

So bravo for that.

That’s also shows what really makes When We Wake stand apart from so many other young adult books that I’ve read. It’s not propelled by romantic tension or love triangles. There are no vampires or shape shifters. Most of the book doesn’t take place in high school. No, this book is something else entirely, and I completely appreciate that for so many reasons.

When We Wake tells the story of a young environmental activist in Australia who gets shot at a rally and wakes up a hundred years in the future. This is a rather tricky plotline for any author to deal with, first the book opens up in the near future, and then jumps to a further future. Time travel is hard to deal with, and it is hard to get readers to swallow at the best of times, so props to Healey for dealing with such a hard plot point with such finesse.

Teagen is a character that works perfectly with the plot. She’s independent, smart, self-motivated, and has some interesting hobbies that genuinely made me excited to learn more about her. This is no wilting flower, this is a young, formidable woman, who is grappling with a very hard situation in realistic ways. Perhaps how she dealt with the situation she finds herself in is what impressed me the most about this book. Teagen mourns the loss of the life she knew and loved. She researched the people she knew. While they passed away a generation ago, to her, she lost them yesterday, and she deals with that in very candid, very emotionally charged ways. I instantly felt for her and her plight, and I loved how she cried, got angry, turned to religion for comfort, and basically did all the things a normal person would do if they lost everything they loved and the world wasn’t the place they expected it to be. Teagen is lost, and Healey dealt with that so very well.

When We Wake is a pretty unique book. This isn’t just character based. There are a lot of political, economic, and environmental issues that propel the book forward. There’s a lot going on in the foreground and in the periphery, and Healey keeps the pacing going forward at a nice clip, while involving all the elements that she has developed to fuel the situations and move them forward. The elements that Healey weaves into her plot are unique because they are so real, they are applicable to our everyday lives, and they do, and will, impact us now.

On the other hand, while I realize that Healey is trying to raise awareness about very important issues, I did, at times, feel like I was being hit over the head with them, and I found it hard to believe that a teenager would care so much. On the other hand, in a futuristic world where climate change, rising oceans, and immigration are huge, in-your-face issues, I’m pretty sure a teenager would find them central to their current state of affairs.

There is a love interest that enters the book, and in some ways he felt a little too predictable and easy, but in other ways his appearance was very sweet and a nice, balancing aspect to the book itself. He kept Teagen on point, and evened her out when she probably would have done something far too drastic. She makes some friends, all with good individual voices and skills that help her out when she needs it most. In some ways the friendships and characters fit into nice boxes that I could understand and predict, but in so many others they were a fantastic addition to an already colorful plot.

When We Wake really surprised me because it was brave. The writing was tight, and the plot was different enough to keep me engaged and interested. I’m anxious to start the next book in the series, which isn’t something that I say about young adult books very often. Some plot points were a bit in-your-face, and some were kind of predictable, but in the end, this book is unique enough, engaging enough, and thought provoking enough to be interesting.

Even to someone like me, who struggles with all things young adult.


4/5 stars


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