When We Wake — Karen Healey

4/5 stars
Goodreads summary: 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.


Guys! It’s more Australian dystopic fiction! (I mean, technically it is Australian dystopic fiction. Karen Healey is from New Zealand, but W3 takes place in Melbourne.)

Australian! Dystopic! Fiction! With a pretty cover! And oh, so many Beatles references!


In 2027, seventeen-year-old Tegan Oglietti is having a great day: The boy she has long loved from afar has just professed his love for her; she has a happy home life with her mom and older brother; and she, her boyfriend, and her best friend are heading off to a political rally where the Prime Minister will be in attendance, so the chance their voices will be heard is high. But Tegan is shot on the steps of Parliament when a sniper’s bullet misses its intended target, and she wakes up one hundred years later as part of a science experiment.

Sadly, the future is not the beautiful one she and her friends fought for in the past. Some things have changed for the better—Muslims are accepted without question now and LGBTQ people and relationships are part of the norm—but global warming has only gotten worse, resources are scarce enough that Australia isn’t allowing immigrants anymore, and—chillingly—eating meat is considered irresponsible and something only “thirdies” (a derogatory term for people from third-world countries) do.

This is a lot for any girl from the past to take in, and making matters worse is that the project Tegan is part of seems (unsurprisingly) to not be entirely on the up and up. The military and the scientists told her it was part of an initiative to revive dead soldiers, but Tegan is finding evidence that suggests otherwise. Duhn-duhn-duuuhn!

W3 has a “setup” feel to it, in that there is a lot of world-building and introducing of characters, but it is all done so well that I didn’t mind. I’m not sure how many books are going to be in this series, but this one has provided a good, solid backdrop for all future books. Part of it is that since the events take place in 2127 I didn’t have to do a whole lot of suspension of belief; the state of the world in Healey’s novel seems totally viable.

The characterization is solid. Tegan is a fierce, positive MC who achieves a good balance of independence and trust in others. Her emotional responses to waking up in the future—when she allows us to be privy to them—were so raw and real that my heart hurt for her. I can’t imagine the pain of knowing that your friends and family went on to suffer, love, and live great and terrible lives without you, and that you didn’t get to share that with them, will never be able to see them again. But Tegan doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on this; she has pressing business to attend to in her new present and she does a great job of carrying on, even when fundamentalists are urging her to commit suicide and reporters are twisting her words. On the whole Healey has written a complex, interesting cast of characters, strong in their convictions and intelligent enough to keep things exciting.

The first-person POV definitely works for this novel, describing events in a realistic teenage voice with a dash of longing and just enough “if I had known then what I know now…” to keep me turning the pages. The only thing that was a little off to me was that a few times Tegan seems too hasty about how cool and accepting she is: “Oh, you’re Muslim and that’s totally cool with me; my boyfriend was Muslim. Oh, you’re trans? You don’t even know how okay I am with that.” It reminded me of people who say things like, “I’m totally cool with gay people! Some of my best friends are gay!” And then there is always a “but.” I kept waiting for the “but.” I know this is such a small gripe, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.

Overall, When We Wake is a gripping, emotional novel, a strong kickoff to the series, and I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be big. Personally, I’m waiting for the official release date of While We Run so I can put a heart around it on my calendar.


2 thoughts on “When We Wake — Karen Healey

  1. This sounds like a very interesting book! I’ve definitely gotten into the whole dystopian craze lately 🙂 It seems like it might be a little depressing though, that she’s completely missed out on a life with the people she loved.

    • It was sad, and the parts where she really let herself contemplate it were heartbreaking. But the rest of the novel is fairly fast-paced and with a fairly positive message, so it balanced out.

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