By Gennifer Albin
October 16, 2012
Ages 12 and up
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Incapable. Awkward. Artless.
That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.
Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.
Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.
Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.
Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.
CREWEL by Gennifer Albin managed to be everything I had hoped it would be, while at the same time nothing that I had expected it to be. If you can’t wrap your mind around that contradiction, then you’re in for a whopper of a surprise with the twists and turns and the futuristic world-changing shocks the book has in store for you. Think Lauren DeStefano’s Wither series meets The Matrix and you have an idea of what to expect with CREWEL.
I was pulled in right from the opening pages of the book, as we’re introduced to Adelice and her family over a super tense dinner. Why was it so tense? Well, Adelice had just gone through a day of life-changing tests conducted by the Guild. Their dinner is swiftly interrupted when the Guild bursts into her house and takes Adelice away, leaving us wondering what is to become of her and the rest of her family. The story starts off at an almost frantic and alarming speed, thrusting us into this world with a society like none we have ever known before. The idea that young ladies should be tested to see if they are the “weavers” of the world (Spinsters) is crazy original. It is also a daring concept to toy with. This is a world where the Guild plays “God”, and the Guild’s will means everything. So much so that the people actually bend to them, live in ignorance because of them and will give up their children to them. Topics such as societal compliance, class order as well as homosexuality are also touched upon. One would think that, though the world so vastly different in many ways, perhaps it is not quite so removed from our own.
Nothing in particular makes Adelice stand out or appear special as a character, in fact she is fairly average in every aspect of the word. BUT it is the very idea that she is “any girl next door” that makes her position all that more alarming. She has a talent that few others have, this talent thrusts her from the position of a nobody to a near-regal in the matter of days. She goes from near-poverty stricken to the life of endless parties and debutantes. From thinking she knew everything about her little world to finding out that she (and we, as readers) actually know very little. To think that even more is yet to be discovered in future novels, hinted at thanks to the CRAZY cliffhanger that literally leaves us “hanging”.
It is through Adelice’s (sometimes disturbing) discoveries that we learn about her world. After the initial alarming opening, things slow down a bit (with the occasional surprise scattered here and there) as we are introduced to Adelice’s trainers, her potential love interests (yes, there is a “triangle” of sorts – though, I still don’t know who I’m rooting for) and some new and dangerous enemies. We meet characters who are obviously out for their own gains, in an organization that is as convoluted and corrupted as our own political system (if not more-so). It’s hard to tell who you can trust and who to keep a cautious eye on. While I wish I could have obtained more background info about some of the characters, I know that there will be future books in which they will be fleshed out. (Oh, and we DO learn what has become of (most of) Adelice’s family.)
Albeit somewhat slow in the middle (as Adelice wavers between two men and hops from one public appearance to the next) the beginning and the end of the book are so fast-paced and so alarming as to what they reveal about the world that everything in between falls into place as necessary character and world building. Without the little added details in the middle, the book would have been all action and no substance. The world would have meant nothing to us. Thanks to Genn’s intricate storytelling, in the end the world means EVERYTHING.
To the discriminating reader, CREWEL will raise many questions about our society today. To the casual reader, CREWEL is an intense story about control, love and sacrifice. Either way, whether you be interested in the subject matter or looking for something fresh and unique, I recommend that you look into CREWEL. This is the first of what is bound to be a seriously complex and highly enjoyable new series!