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Impossible Paperback – August 11, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—Werlin combines magic, romance, and a family curse in this 21st-century fairy tale based on the ballad "Scarborough Fair." On the night of her prom, Lucy, 17, is raped by her date and becomes pregnant. She decides to keep the child, and she is supported by her foster parents and Zach, her childhood friend whose love for Lucy changes from platonic to romantic as the story progresses. The teen discovers the curse on the women in her family when she reads her birth mother's diary. Lucy is destined for madness at 18 unless she can perform the three impossible tasks described in the song and break the curse of the Elfin Knight. She is determined to rid herself and her unborn child of the curse, and her family and Zach help her as she works to solve the riddles. This unique story flows smoothly and evenly, and the well-drawn characters and subtle hints of magic early on allow readers to enter willingly into the world of fantasy. As in The Rules of Survival (Dial, 2006), Werlin addresses tough topics. Rape, teen pregnancy, and family madness set the story in motion, but the strength of Lucy's character and the love of her family and friends allow her to deal with such difficult matters and take on the impossible. Teens, especially young women, will enjoy this romantic fairy tale with modern trappings.—Jennifer D. Montgomery, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Date rape, a pregnant teen, and a shotgun wedding (of sorts)—must be a YA problem novel circa 1985, right? Not really. From a hidden letter, 17-year-old Lucy Scarborough learns “all sorts of melodramatic, ridiculous, but true things” about the circumstances surrounding her rape on prom night, her subsequent pregnancy, and why therapy and her signature pragmatism won’t be much help against an ancient fairy’s curse. By the Edgar Award–winning novelist whose thrillers include The Rules of Survival (2006), this tale, inspired by the song “Scarborough Fair,” showcases the author’s finesse at melding genres. Although it’s perhaps overly rosy that Lucy’s devoted foster parents take the curse in stride, Werlin earns high marks for the tale’s graceful interplay between wild magic and contemporary reality—from the evil fairy lord disguised as a charismatic social worker to the main players’ skepticism as they attempt to solve the curse’s three archaic puzzles (“We’ve formed the Fellowship of the Ring when really we should’ve all just gone on medication”). Meantime, Lucy’s marriage to childhood pal Zach, a development unusual in YA fiction but convincing in context, underlies the catapulting suspense with a notion that will be deeply gratifying to many teens: no destiny is unalterable, especially not when faced with tender love magic, “weird and hilarious and sweeter than Lucy ever dreamed,” worked by truly mated souls. Grades 7-11. --Jennifer Mattson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Lucy Scarborough has been tormented by her mother's insanity for years. Lucy's foster parents, Soledad and Leo, take wonderful care of Lucy. In a way, they do for Lucy what they couldn't do for Lucy's mother, Miranda, when she came to them 17 and pregnant with no place to go. They took care of Miranda, but as soon as she gave birth to Lucy, she was lost in a world of her own madness. Lucy is so humiliated and saddened by her birth mother that she doesn't tell anyone her story, except Zach. Zach has stayed with her foster parents for years and is finally back on Christmas break from college. While Lucy has always trusted Zach with everything, she is starting to see him as more than just a family member.
When prom comes around, Zach helps convince the overprotective Soledad to let her go. Although he is jealous of the nerdy boy she is going with, he thinks it is important Lucy gets some normal fun in her life. Unfortunately, prom night is anything but normal or fun. After the dance, Lucy follows her date back into the ballroom where he forgot something. In the ballroom, he admits he didn't forget anything, but just wanted some time with her. Then he proceeds to rape her. Lucy tries to stop him, but something happens to his face as he hurts her- it seems to shift as though someone else is inside his body. When Zach finds her, the wheels start turning to help her. She goes to the hospital, the mysterious new employee at Soledad's practice gets Lucy the morning after pill, and they find a therapist for her to talk to.
About two months later, it becomes very clear to Lucy that she is pregnant, despite the prevention she took. When she finally confides in Zach and her parents, they are very supportive of her decision to keep the baby. Then Lucy learns something of her past. She finds her mother's diary from when Miranda was pregnant. While the diary is telling, there are pages ripped out. When Lucy remembers the false bottom of a shelf she found as a kid, she finds the missing diary pages. In them, Miranda tells of a curse placed on the Scarborough girls generations ago by an evil faerie king. When Fenella Scarborough refused to be her queen, he cursed her generations to come with an early pregnancy that creates another girl in the line and drives the mother mad once she is born. Miranda's diary pages also explain the song "Scarborough Fair" tells of the curse and the three impossible tasks Lucy can perform before she gives birth that will end the curse. Lucy must make a shirt with no seems and constructed with no needles. She must find an acre of land between "the salt water and the sea strand" and she must plow that land with a goat's horn and sow it with one grain of corn. While the tasks seem impossible, Zach and Lucy's parents won't give up on her. From genealogical research to prove the curse is real, to searching real estate for the acre of land between the salt water and the sea strand, to work with fabrics and materials to create the seamless shirt, the whole family is determined to save Lucy and her baby girl. But can they beat the clock and beat the faerie king in one fell swoop?
Oh, Nancy Werlin, you wove such an intriguing tale! This story is mysterious and clever, with a plot that continuously reveals little tidbits until you finally have the whole, crazy story. The vague description of the book made me wary- I am not fond of books that stay shrouded in mystery for all but the last 50 pages. It drives me nuts! While this book has a vague beginning, the pace of revelation throughout the book is wonderful. New twists are revealed and unfolded at a pace that keeps the reader from losing interest but still keeps them wanting more.
The material seems heavy and mature, but it is handled with the utmost of grace and dignity. While the rape is certainly traumatizing for Lucy, it isn't the central story. I also liked how her parents dealt with the rape and the pregnancy- very upfront, honest, and supportive. I suspect some people would hesitate in giving this book to students because of the content, but they would be overlooking the incredible messages embedded within the mature scenarios. Yes, Lucy is pregnant, but she trusts her parents enough to openly talk to them about it, not hide it from them. Yes, Lucy is raped, but her family is proactive, seeks a therapist, and support Lucy every step of the way. And while Lucy acknowledges the unfortunate timing of her pregnancy, she loves her unborn daughter and will fight against the impossible in order to protect her. I know there are many adults out there who would shy away from exposing mature situations to young readers. While I understand that urge, I think the right book with mature situations handled well is just as powerful in a positive way. This book is well written and any maturity is handled beautifully. So make it all possible and give this amazing book a chance!
And over a year after reading this book from the library, I knew I had to own it. Im not a person that reads a book more than once, but it's such a treasure that I had to just own it, so that I wouldn't forget this book.
Being a book collector, it made me cringe to see the black marker line on the underneath part of the book, but you couldn't find a flawless book unless you went to a book store and examined it. The back of the book shows a sticker mark that wasn't cleaned off well, and even some scuff marks. But I bought the hard cover for a reason! I didn't want to order a papercover book and receive it bent in the mail. So I think the hard cover was worth the extra few dollars.
Since reading this book I have not been able to get that song out of my head. It has been, you'll forgive the pun, impossible. It's all good, of course, because I've always loved the Simon & Garfunkel version, as well as Dylan's quasi-adaptation of the ballad "Girl from the North Country." And it's good because Nancy Werlin does such interesting things developing a novel based on the lyrics. In a few words it is a contemporary suspenseful folk fantasy with some hereditary insanity, a sweet romance, and one extremely dubious (and dangerous) elven knight.
Lucy Scarborough has spent her life with her adoptive parents because her mother, Miranda, is insane. Lucy manages to lead an eminently normal life interspersed with occasional random visits from Miranda, who is never really lucid beyond mumbling strange lyrics to "Scarborough Fair." But when prom night turns disastrous for Lucy it sets into motion an unbelievable chain of events and they all lead back to Miranda and an awful curse the Scarborough women have suffered under for centuries. Soon Lucy is rushing to beat the devil and save herself from insanity and her unborn daughter from sharing her unbearable fate. She is accompanied on this endeavor by her childhood friend Zack and her adoptive parents Leo and Soledad.
Impossible reminded me of an end of high school version of Pamela Dean's Tam Lin. It had that same eerie, lyrical feel to it and I had similar responses to both books. I enjoyed them but felt that the characters remained somehow aloof from the reader to a certain degree, with the result that the stories as a whole felt cold. Part of this removed feeling comes, I think, from the nature of the tales themselves. They center on truly cruel supernatural beings playing wanton games with desperate, usually outnumbered humans. I've loved similar storylines, but if I can't get into the desperate humans and really root for them, it's hard to stay involved. Despite this, I did like the easy friendship Lucy and Zack shared and how their growing feelings for each other both surprised them and made them stronger. And I especially appreciated the emphasis Werlin put on humble human triumph over haughty supernatural manipulation and how true love does not cloud judgement but enables one to see clearly.