Gennifer Albin has crafted this clever young adult novel about Adelice Lewys, a teenager who has been chosen to be a Spinster — someone who weaves the world everyone lives in. Adelice lives in a community called Romen in the country of Arras with her 12-year-old sister, Amie, and their parents.
Theirs is a tightly controlled society in which food is rationed, parents can have only two children of the same sex, marriages are arranged, the government decides when you will die and children take tests to determine their futures.
Adelice’s parents learned when she was very young that she has a gift for weaving — arranging and rearranging the very fabric of life. They insist that she hide her talents so she would not be forced to become a Spinster.
Being a Spinster is a privileged position, but it comes at a price. You are taken from your family and can never see them again.
Also, Spinsters can’t marry or have children.
On testing day, Adelice forgets her parents’ advice and performs very well. When a knock comes at the door, Adelice and her family know she must have done well. Her father tries to shove his wife; Adelice and Amie into an underground passage that Adelice didn’t know existed. But as Adelice is escaping, a metal clamp latches on to her and pulls her back into the house.
Then the men who came to get her give her a sedative. While sedated, she notices a body bag with blood dripping out that she supposes is her father’s.
One of the officials, Cormac Patton, tells her that outside her door is a “streaming crew” — photographers and cameramen.
Though she is in shock, Patton orders her to “Make it look good,” and tells her Amie’s life depends on it. That is only the beginning of the control Adelice will experience.
Cormac takes her to another city where she is placed in cold stone cell for trying to escape.
When she is taken out, she meets Maela, who tells her that there is no hiding from the Guild. Maela, Adelice’s weaving trainer, is harsh and unfair.
Adelice is given a beautiful apartment, food she’s never imagined and trendy clothes — but is a prisoner. She also meets Enora, her new mentor, who wants to help her but who also is controlled by the Guild. Although most Spinsters need a loom to weave, Enora finds out that Adelice doesn’t because of her tremendous weaving skill.
Enora cautions Adelice to never let anyone know how skilled she is. Adelice, who has worried about her mother and sister, learns that her mother was killed and that Amie has been brainwashed, has no memory of her previous life and is living with another family.
Adelice also learns that the Creweler, who is rarely seen, is the greatest of the Spinsters and helps the Guild harvest raw material. Adelice also meets Pryana, a prospective young Spinster, and likes her.
Maela sets up a loom and tells Adelice to feel the material of life and remove a weak strand — in other words, remove a weak person’s life. Adelice can feel the weak strand but refuses to remove it. Maela is furious and removes a whole section of the weave.
That section included Pryana’s sister’s school, so Maela just murdered Pryana’s sister. But Pryana blames Adelice. That is just the start of Adelice’s resisting he assignment as a Spinster, which involves helping the Guild control the population.
She finds some people who feel as she does, but they must be careful because the Guild is very powerful — and unforgiving.
The book, the first of a series, is a fast read and should have little trouble holding the attention of young adult readers. The author, Gennifer Albin, went to the University of Missouri and lives in Lenexa.
Maggie Braun is a Manhattan resident.