I realize that after what I said in my last book review about Frozen, that I am going to sound like a hypocrite with what I write about Crewel by Jennifer Albin. In my previous review I complained about the way Frozen combined two genres, fantasy and apocalyptic fiction. What I realize after reading Crewel, is that the problem isn’t using fantasy elements in a post-apocalyptic story, but how well it’s done. Frozen simply squished every stereotypical fantasy element onto its post-apocalyptic base, whereas Crewel deftly weaves one fantasy element into what is otherwise a dystopian/apocalyptic novel. Apologies to people who have already read Crewel and got the bad pun…
Adelice has been trained most of her life to be clumsy and incompetent. In Arras, a tightly controlled dystopian world, teenage girls are tested on a loom to see if they have what it takes to be a Spinster. Unlike the connotation of the word in our world, most people see being promoted to a Spinster as an honor, for it is these special women the weave the very fabric of their world and fix any problems in the weave, as such they are given a lavish lifestyle which includes beautiful clothes, attendants, gourmet food, and parties. Who wouldn’t want that? Adelice’s parents for one! They seem to know that being a Spinster is not as wonderful as it seems to be and so they have trained Adelice to fail the testing.
Adelice wants to please her parents and also she is not sure she wants to be a Spinster, as Spinsters leave their families never to return and remain unmarried. Not that Adelice knows much about men, in Arras society boys and girls are segregated. Families must apply for permission to have children, and when it is granted, a family has only either boys, or girls, and live in separate areas of town.
During her testing the training given to her by her parents pays off and she does miserably throughout the testing, until the snotty girls from her school whisper comments about her incompetence. Adelice’s pride rushes through her for a moment causing her to perform a complicated weave for a moment, but a moment is all it takes for her to be declared a Spinster. She returns home to her parents who have prepared a special celebration meal, intended to celebrate her failure, not a victory, so Adelice cannot bear to tell them what has happened and keeps her secret knowing that tomorrow Manipulation Services will be coming to take her away.
However, Arras officials arrive during the meal and her parents try to help her escape through tunnels in the basement that Adelice didn’t even know existed, but in the end she is caught and begins her life as a Spinster, and learns the truth about the role and the very formation of Arras. Her decisions and actions will have surprising and severe consequences on the people she cares about, and her indeed her very world.