My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The first thing that I thought about Gennifer Albin’s “Crewel” when doing my overall reflective thoughts about it was that I probably should’ve never read it in consideration as a dystopian work (in general) right after the rather developed and meticulously constructed thematic of “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. Granted, they’re both dystopian works, but for considerably different audiences, and I took that into consideration as I sat down to think about my reflections on “Crewel” and why it didn’t appeal to me.
Maybe if I hadn’t read the books so close together, the glaring faults of this novel probably would not have stood out as much to me, and maybe – just maybe – I could’ve found more to like in it. But then I thought about it. No, a dystopian work, even a YA dystopic romance – as common of an occurrence as it’s come to be in the genre now – should be able to stand on its own two feet without so much comparison. It should be able to leave me with something to remember in its aftermath with whatever story it chooses to weave with its respective cast and conflicts.
I’m going to preface this review by saying that I think there are bound to be people who like this work, especially those who frequent dystopias and don’t mind the similarities – that’s fine. I’m probably among a vocal minority as far as it not being my cup of tea. Yet, I want to start off by pointing out the single biggest factor that put me off this collective novel, and it’s a significant one since it’s one of the biggest things that I look for in a story that appeals to me.
I didn’t give a single wink about any of the characters in this work. None whatsoever. And I know some of you are thinking “WHAT? Considering everything you really didn’t care about any of the characters here, Rose?!”
Well…yeah. Basically. Usually if I can’t do that (with few exceptions – there has to be a LOT of thought and execution into the other elements of the work, though), the whole bottom caves in from the rest of the story no matter how intriguing it might be. Believe me, this story had many pieces of it that could make it actually a pretty cool offering in the YA genre – I definitely see where those factors come into play. Character usually begets story, mostly not the other way around, otherwise your characters may feel more like mechanized puppets. That was part of the problem with “Crewel” because for me, it was easy to tell that the characters were being led on strings to certain points. Then there were plot points that just didn’t make a heck of a lot of sense. Like one big grating detail that occurs at the end of the novel that just…argh. Stupid forced love triangle *grumble, grumble*. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s summarize the plot, shall we? 🙂
The story begins with Adelice and her family dining in the aftermath of a series of trials that Adelice was said to have failed (but she didn’t) and results in her capture and being taken in some ambiguous display of force, kept in a cell, then dressed up in pretty clothes, told what to eat, controlled to a tee in this rather ostracizing environment towards women and involves the separation of the sexes. In any case, Adelice has been told that the extent of her special abilities have to be hidden – she has the ability to weave time in threads, which is a really neat ability. She goes with the flow of her environment save for times when she stands against her superiors in what could be mentioned as obvious notes of oppression.
The only thing I really remotely liked about the viewpoint protagonist was her name – Adelice. Otherwise she’s dull as stones. The lot of the characters in this narrative are, the love interests and villains included. That might be a very rude thing to say, but hear me out. I’m totally over the purportedly talented leading character with a special ability who’s constantly praised as having a gift and being an aberration in her society but not actually really being shown as a character who steps up to the plate with said ability – the information is told more than shown. The places where she does step up feel manufactured and contrasting to the times where she recedes back into a love sick Mary Sue. I never felt fully connected to Adelice’s experience. There’s also the obvious love triangle between two boys who compete for her affections and a revelation toward the end about both of them that seems so insufferably silly that I wonder what the big deal about it was.
While “Crewel” has some interesting notations in terms of weaving time/matter among other measures – I wish that the worldbuilding was a little stronger/developed than it was. There were too many unanswered questions for my liking, including the power dynamic and divisions in the society, which I think could’ve given “Crewel” a bit more leverage in addition to the cool weaving elements. Even if those had been thoroughly addressed, I don’t think it could’ve saved the novel from having an insufferable cast of characters with far too many elements of other dystopian works. It just wasn’t enough to stand out to me.
Overall, the concept has a fair amount of intrigue with the premise, but I think those who are looking for a different dystopian in the YA genre would likely find more in a fuller work with better construction and characters. Great ideas, but not woven with enough care or consideration for me to continue the series, though I think others who are more forgiving of the novel’s familiar elements in conjunction with its unique offerings could find enjoyment within it.
Overall score: 2/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Macmillan.