The Real Fabric of Reality: A Review of “Crewel” by Gennifer Albin

I haven’t posted a book review since January. I have been reading quite a bit since then but haven’t written down my thoughts. I’d like to change that.

My goal is to catch up on my book reviews, both of Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) and other books I think are worthy of note (sometimes I just like to read without thinking that I later have to write a review for all to see), by the end of the year.  Right now, I have about 10 reviews (8 books, 2 albums) with 3 more coming down the pike as soon as I finish the books. With about 6 and a half weeks left in the year and my goal of posting at least twice a week on the blog, this is totally doable. So here goes!

Photo courtesy of rainydaybooks.com

Photo courtesy of rainydaybooks.com

I’m kicking off this end-of-the-year goal with a review of “Crewel” by Gennifer Albin, which I received an ARC of. While I read this about a year ago, I actually think of the premise quite often as it is one of the more intriguing concepts I’ve encountered in a while (And it’s dysopian. I love dystopian).

In this novel, the world is made of “time” fabric that only a certain few can see (This book is very appropriately titled since “crewel” is a type of embroidery). These few are typically girls, and they are recruited. If you can see the fabric, you can weave it. These recruited few are whisked away to live a life of luxury with pretty dresses and banquets. Or so it seems.

The book focuses on one girl in particular: Adelice. She is one of the very few (I’m talking one in every few decades) that has exceptional vision for the this “time fabric” and can weave it with stunning ease and dexterity if she chooses to.  And yet, she doesn’t want to. She wants to live a normal life, not one away from her family, no matter how glamourous it may seem.  She knows there is something off about weaving the literal fabric of time. Deciding what to do with others people’s lives, and even ending them, or erasing society’s memory of a particularly heinous event is not what she’s into. But because of her exceptional ability, she is recruited anyhow.  To add to the cast of characters, Adelice meets Jost and Erik while assimilating to her new life as a weaver.  Thus begins Adelice’s adventure…and the downward spiral into romance.

While this book was very promising, the development of the idea fell short for me.  I love the concept of the world’s events and lives and everyday occurrences being literally wrapped in a fabric that can be shaped, cut, and added to. I thought it was a very nice metaphor for life in that we all collectively form a tapestry, a work of art (that a select few want to keep control of because they are power hungry. A good villain is always needed). However, I felt as if the book focused more on the typical teenage romance than the (very dangerous) circumstances surrounding wanting to rebel against a tightly-woven (pun definitely intended) society with veiled yet impenetrable security.

As mentioned in my review of “Divergent,” I’m very picky when it comes to romance. I’m ok with it as long as it seems necessary. For me, the love triangle in “Crewel” wasn’t necessary and fell more in line with “this is what needs to happen in a YA novel, so here it is.”  I wanted to see more action, by which I mean more explosions and fighting and sneaking around, but I got kissing instead. This made Adelice, while not a weak character, appear wimpy and, at times, one-dimensional.  This is not to say that literary women in relationships are weak, I just prefer female characters that spend most of their time kicking ass rather than making out.

The ending also seemed a bit rushed, though I think it was more intended as a cliffhanger. Although there were some flaws with this book, the writing was solid, and I’m interested enough in the world to see what happens next.  I just found out that the sequel (“Altered”) is now out, and I’ll be picking that up soon.  Sometimes book series can have a slow start with the first installment since it is the introduction to the world. It’s certainly possible (and I’m hopeful) that Gennifer Albin picks up the pace with “Altered.” Here’s hoping for more explosions!

Divergent, Insurgent…Detergent?

Divergent

Divergent (Photo credit: prettybooks)

I recently stumbled upon the Divergent series thanks for a library friend of mine.  She said it was being heralded as the new Hunger Games.  I was skeptical.  I loved the Hunger Games and didn’t think anything could come close to it in YA fiction again.  But I have to say that Veronica Roth does a very good job.

The heroine of the Divergent series, Tris, is strong-willed and useful, the two qualities I love in female characters.  This is not because I am a Femi-Nazi.  It’s because I like tension in my characters.  While reading about Tris, I found myself getting frustrated with her.  This is not the frustration one feels when one encounters a poorly written character, but rather the organic frustration that inevitably comes when you get to know someone.  Their quirks bug you and sometimes (though you value their strength) you wish they weren’t so stubborn.  I have wrestled with Tris as I wrestled with Katniss.

Now for the obligatory summary (without too many spoilers, I hope): This dystopian series is set in a society where people are split into 5 factions which hold a particular virtue above all others: Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (intelligence), Amity (peace), and Abnegation (selflessness).  When children turn 16, they get to choose which faction they will stay in for the rest of their lives.  This means they will conform to the rules of that particular faction, wear faction-specific clothing, and if you choose a faction different from the one you were born into, you never get to see your family again.  No pressure, right?

This book follows Beatrice Prior, who is born into Abnegation.  She ends up choosing Dauntless.  This seems pretty straight forward — a young girl who feels too selfish for a life of selflessness tries to break out of her prescribed mold by being daring. To be sure, Beatrice, who renames herself Tris, faces many fears throughout the first book and really gets comfortable in her own skin.  She finds it’s ok to have desires, to have free time and spend it any way you want, and even (gasp!) get tattooed.  The first book is really about Tris coming into her own.  The end of the first book and the entire second novel are about the war (it’s a dysptopia…of course there’s war).  But it’s more than that.  Like Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth does a wonderful job of developing her characters.  I actually cared about what happened and that kept me reading.  Tris is a girl thrown into a war-torn society and has to make quick use of all the information she has learned while “growing up” in a few short weeks since leaving her primary faction.  The twist?  She can make it all stop.  You’ll just have to read the books to find out how 🙂

Courtesy of Goodreads.com

Courtesy of Goodreads.com

As you can tell from this review and others I’ve posted recently, I really enjoy character development.  While I definitely yelled at Tris quite a few times because of her unnecessary recklessness or stubbornness, I really liked her.  She meets so many people, like her love interest, Four, and various friends.  Not only does the political dynamic shift, but also the interpersonal dynamic.  People choose sides. People die.  And it’s what happens in the aftermath that I find so interesting.

One such event is her romance with Four, one of the Dauntless leaders.  I’m really not a fan of romance in novels because it’s usually done in a very cheesy manner, especially in YA fiction.  But Tris and Four’s romance seemed born out of necessity for authentic human contact, a longing that is ever present when everything around you is falling apart.  That is something I can believe and genuinely root for.  Kudos to Veronica Roth for doing romance right!

Now, you may be wondering about the title of this post.  The first two are the titles of the books of the trilogy so far.  Since the third is yet unnamed, my library friend has dubbed it “Detergent.”  I flew through the first two books.  I honestly can’t wait to see what happens to Tris and the gang.

The Divergent series has been a series of the most quotable books I’ve read in a while.  For a YA trilogy (well, the two books that are out so far), it’s got quite a bit of wisdom.  As we come up on the new year, I thought I’d share some of the gems I’ve found with you:

I do trust you, is what I want to say. But it isn’t true — I didn’t trust him to love me despite the terrible things I had done. I don’t trust anyone to do that, but that isn’t his problem; it’s mine.”

“It reminds me why I chose Dauntless in the first place: not because they are perfect, but because they are alive. Because they are free.”

“I am his, and he is mine, and it has been that way all along.”

“I read somewhere, once, that crying defies scientific explanation. Tears are only meant to lubricate the eyes. There is no real reason for tear glands to overproduce tears at the behest of emotion. I think we cry to release the animal parts of us without losing our humanity.”

“Grief is not as heavy as guilt, but it takes more away from you.”

“Noise and activity are the refuges of the bereaved and the guilty.”

“’May the peace of God be with you,’ she says, her voice low, ‘even in the midst of trouble.’
‘Why would it?’ I say softly, so no one else can hear. ‘After all I’ve done…’
‘It isn’t about you,’ she says. ‘It is a gift. You cannot earn it, or it ceases to be a gift.’”