Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Me on When We Wake

Title: When We Wake
Author: Karen Healey
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group imprint)

Tegan is sixteen and 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 her 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 she appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future?

When We Wake is intriguing, incredibly thoughtful, and incredibly relevant. How much will the world change between now and 100 years from now? What will be our worth as people? What will the planet look like? How will visitors and refugees from different countries be treated? If a terrible truth is being hidden from the rest of the world, will anyone be brave enough to bring it to light? This is an exploration of a changing world, an exploration of faith, and a conformation that, sometimes, you have to speak out in order to save the world.

The best comment I can give Karen Healey about this book is that I hope I never experience a future like this. It's frightening realistic. I don't live in Australia, but I can recognize hints and pieces of what's happening then happening now. It's eerie, and scary, and serves in increase both my fear for the future and my hope that we won't ruin it.

Tegan brings a 21st century Aussie teen's attitude and knowledge of her world to a far different 22nd century Melbourne. And it's not just Melbourne, it's the whole world. She's so normal, she has friends and a boyfriend and she's passionate about changing the world, and suddenly she's a publicity stunt, a girl brought back to life, an instant celebrity. The culture shock is staggering at every turn but she still manages to fight her way through every roadblock, even when it looks like she might not make it out alive.

The future Tegan encounters is different from the present she knows. There's a notable loss of resources, the shrinking of the oceans and the disappearance of forested areas. The temperature is on the rise, inflation is on the rise, technology is on the rise. There are new diseases to fight, new battles to encounter. The social customs and norms aren't what she's used to, and neither is the technology, but Tegan is a fighter. Her guts and strength are what propel her into the unknown, into the journey she tells the reader all about.

I think the purpose of books like this is to show readers, teenagers and adults alike, that things need to change now in order to keep the future from looking similar to what's portrayed. Destruction, devastation, poverty, refugees. It all sounds pretty depressing. But we can hope that, if the future turns grey and dismal and if there's a secret as big as the one Tegan discovers, that there will be those fighting to tell the truth and help humanity remember its roots. The future doesn't have to be frightening, it can be better, but we're the ones who have to work hard to keep it bright.

(I acquired an advance copy at ALA Midwinter.)

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