In case you thought the interest for young-adult dystopian fiction was dying down, we present to you exhibit A: Gennifer Albin’s upcoming novel Crewel, which had seven agents scrambling to represent it, and five publishing houses fighting to buy it in a week. We won’t get to see the book itself until October 16, but we do have this unusual, brilliant cover to share with you. And a few words from Albin herself, who got on the phone with us from her home in Kansas to explain this bizarre “Mad Men meets Handmaid’s Tale Meets The Hunger Games” pitch we keep hearing.
“It’s set in a world where women are cultivated into these kind of femme-fatale types that weave the fabric of life,” Albin explained. “They are made to be these beautiful, deadly women that are then controlled by the all male government.”
Adelice, the 16-year-old at the center of the novel, has the talent needed to become one of these “Spinsters,” but her parents are determined to protect her from that fate. So, is this some kind of commentary on the fame and fashion industries? Not really. “But one of the reasons they are made to be beautiful is because in my perfect world the thing that would tempt me the most is being able to live a really glamorous lifestyle.”
And part of that glamour involves the retro looks and attitudes that warrant the Mad Men references people keep throwing around. “The men are in control — they wear suits and tuxedos and drink cocktails, while the women are sort of put in these positions where they actually have incredible authority but they’re made to feel like they’re subservient to the men,” she said. There’s also this very witty repartee that goes on between the protagonist and the villain. It’s kind of reminiscent of screwball comedies in that way too. There is actually a [spoilery] reason that this world is 1940s-50sish.”
Just to help illustrate that aesthetic, belied by the very sci-fi cover (designed by Christian Funfhausen), we asked her to give us five of her favorite retro looks that inspired the Crewel world:
And while Albin is a Hunger Games fan (though she didn’t read the series until after writing Crewel), she does want to differentiate her series from Suzanne Collins’ trilogy. “Crewel is very genre-blending,” she told us. “Even though it’s got the dystopian angle, it’s very heavily — I say science fiction but also almost a fantasy element. It’s more in the terms of Star Wars, where there’s this mysterious power, but it seems to be a more technologically based society.”
And of course, Katniss couldn’t care less about fashion despite the influence of stylist Cinna.
[Cover courtesy Macmillan]