I really liked this book. There was so much to think about. First, it was not just the "red" but also the loss of privacy, the constant monitoring, then being ejected back in to the world as a changed person with the mark of evil on you. I must admit I wanted to know what the other colors were punishment for. Even though you could figure a few out I really wanted more information.
I expected the comparison to The Scarlet Letter, but I was not prepared for the rather shocking racist feelings that were aroused by the color punishments. I have often thought that this country has lost its sense of shame and that that was a bad thing: however, the unending, unyielding shame that relentlessly pervaded Hannah's life made me wonder anew.
The phrase "it's personal" evolved throughout the book just as Hannah evolved into a different person. At first it was simply a password but became a definition of Hannah as a person who was able to think for herself and structure her own life. When it is used at the end to allow her to enter Canada it symbolizes her journey as well as her identity as separate from her parents, her religion, and most definitely from Aiden. She appears to advocate for abortion rights, but also presents the heartbreak and ambivalance abortion can cause. She appears to advocate for abortion rights, but also presents the heartbreak and ambivalence abortion can cause.
She seems to denigrate organized religion, but then shows a sympathy for and an understanding of faith as a good thing. She presents the "trinity party" and its authoritarian stance as bad, but then presents a very strict authoritarian figure (Simone) as good and just. The book presents a very conflicted view of many aspects of society, so perhaps she is just presenting the "American acceptance of tolerance without condemnation" to the extreme.
I did think melachroming was a good solution until I saw the devastation it caused. Hannah, of course, was presented as "innocent" by our present standards which made her a sympathetic character. The way that those who were melachromed were made part of a caste of new untouchables made me rethink my position. I was especially struck by the melachromed "criminals" who acted in ways more "Christian" than those who were supposedly more enlightened. I started thinking in more racist terms as the book progressed.
I wondered how those who had been melachromed reacted when their coloring was reversed and they were able to return to "normal" society. I wondered if they would form a political party to overthrow the oppressive regime Hannah lived under. Hmmm, maybe an idea for a sequel????