Sunday, February 7, 2010

Currently Reading ... Impossible by Nancy Werlin


See a trailer for Nancy Werlin's Impossible here ...

or click here to go to Nancy Werlin's website ...

or here to visit the publisher's page about the novel.

Lucy Scarborough, 17, a confident, practical young woman with an ironic sense of humor, is dearly loved by her foster parents, Leo and Soledad (and, though none of them realize it yet, by Zach Greenfield, a childhood friend staying with their family for the summer). On the night of her junior prom, Lucy’s homeless and mentally ill biological mother, Miranda, shows up at their house, singing “Scarborough Fair” and lobbing glass bottles at Lucy and her date, Gray. After the prom, Gray rapes Lucy. He flees the scene--and gets into a fatal car crash. Lucy can’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t really Gray who raped her. It was as if his body was taken over by someone else. But ever-sensible Lucy realizes that this is probably just her imagination; her mind’s way of trying to assimilate the horrific experience. Lucy tries to pretend that everything is okay--but it’s not. Lucy is pregnant.

When she reads Miranda's journal, Lucy learns that the women of her family are under a curse, and that the song “Scarborough Fair” holds the key. To break the curse, Lucy must make a seamless shirt with no needlework, find an acre of land between the salt water and the sea strand, plow the land with a goats horn, and sow it all over with one grain of corn. If Lucy can figure out what all this means and complete the cryptic tasks, she and her unborn daughter will be safe. If not, they--like Miranda and generations of Scarborough women before her--will belong to the Elfin Knight.

I love books that show realistic, contemporary characters encountering magic, and Impossible does this superbly. As a folk music enthusiast, I also enjoyed Werlin’s use of the folk song as a means of passing knowledge of the curse from generation to generation. Some reviewers felt that the novel glossed over or minimized the serious problems of date rape and teen pregnancy, and I can see their point. But, while they were essential to the plot, these subjects were not the main point of the book. Overall, Lucy’s journey from denial to doubt, and from doubt to acceptance, is convincing, and her struggles seem real. The fast-growing attraction and romance between Lucy and Zach rings mostly true as well (even if Zach, like Leo and Soledad, seems a bit too perfect to be believable). Another objection I have seen raised is that the fantasy elements were minimally developed, but I did not find that to detract from the story at all. Keeping events rooted in the real world made it more intriguing for me than if Lucy had been transported to a fantasy realm.

It is unusual to have a marriage and a pregnancy in a YA, but in the context of the novel it made sense. I have reservations about recommending this book for younger readers. Many 11- and 12-year-olds read YA fiction, and there is no hint in the jacket copy about the themes of rape and teen pregnancy. In my opinion, Lucy, a strong, determined, and down-to-earth heroine, is a positive role model, and neither the rape nor the wedding night scene is explicit. Still, the book deals with subject matter that is not suitable for the younger set.

For older teens and adults, Nancy Werlin’s Impossible weaves a beautiful tale of love triumphing over darkness. It is a contemporary story set in today’s world, but its theme and characters seem timeless.

1 comment:

Catherine A. Winn said...

I just discovered Nancy Werlin (I have no idea where I've been) and just finished The Killer's Cousin and blogged about it. I started her book, are you alone on purpose?, today and had to force myself to put it down to eat! I'm working my way through every one of her books and, thanks to this article, I am really looking forward to Impossible!