YA novels with a "unique" teenage girl as the main character set in some sort of fantasy/dystopian world are everywhere right now, and you have to wonder why. It’s not that they aren’t good (clearly, we enjoy them), but it seems like we've seen just about every configuration there is in this literary equation. Then, just when we think the genre is burned out, we read one that reminds us why we keep coming back. Such is the bookCrewel by Gennifer Albin.
Spinster’s definitely a negative word for us, but in Arras, every girl hopes to be a Spinster. After all, while the regular people of Arras live under the rigid control of the Guild, which tells them how much they can eat, what jobs they go to every day, and how many children they can have, Spinsters live glamorous lives and they have prestigious roles: they control the very threads of Arras. From time to life to death to creation and destruction, Spinsters weave the threads that make up the world and everything in it. So yeah, Spinster equals good. That is, for everyone except Adelice.
Adelice is a talented Spinster, but her parents have been suppressing her gifts her whole life. They don’t want her to become part of the Guild, but in the end they have no choice. Adelice is certainly an interesting main character. It’s clear that she has no idea what’s going on around her, nor what’s at stake, but she’s not dumb enough to go along with everything without a protest. It’s great to see her stand up for herself, but it’s also easy to wish she’d keep her mouth shut so she can learn what she’s up against instead of her constant mouthing off.
The book sets up a love triangle, as YA novels are wont to do, but it’s not the center of the story by any means. No, the real driving force of Crewel is what’s happening underneath the surface of Arras. Albin does a good job with the pace of revelations and building the world, though sometimes it feels like she doesn’t explain quite enough. The reader is thrust into Arras without a lot of explanation, so it might feel like you’re treading water trying to figure out what in the world is going on. Eventually, though, it all comes together, even if the details are sometimes a bit murky.
Crewel is the first in a series (of course), but it’s definitely piqued our interest. The premise of the novel is super interesting, and the way it ends is quite the cliffhanger. So much has been done in this genre that it’s really difficult to find anything unique anymore, so Gennifer Albin is to be commended.
Have you read any YA fantasy/dystopian novels lately that surprised you?