Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nothing is Impossible, But Impossible is Somethng

Impossible by Nancy Werlin
5Q 4P; Audience: J/S

My familiarity with the folk song Scarborough Fair comes via the plaintive, hauntingly harmonized Simon and Garfunkel version. I like the song and usually sing along to the chorus whenever I hear it. But Impossible made me realize I'd never really listened to it. It's surprising enough to realize what's being sung under the melody, but how is it that I never wondered about the impossible tasks the singer is asking of his lover? Nancy Werlin is a far better listener than I, and she did wonder, which led her to write this book. What she came up with as an explanation makes for a rich, romantic read.

Though she doesn't yet know it, Lucy Scarborough's family has long been cursed. It is not wise for mortal women to spurn the advances of an elven lord. The price Lucy's long-ago ancestress paid for doing just that was madness, and that is the price all her descendants will pay until one of them successfully performs the impossible tasks the elven lord demands of them in retribution. Lucy doesn't realize the significance of Scarborough Fair, the song she has always associated with her mother. She only knows the fear and embarrassment she feels when Miranda comes around, never knowing when her mother will burst out into a tirade or publicly humiliate her. She does not realize that this song is Miranda's attempt to tell her how to break the curse.

Some girls would have found the stigma of an insane mother too much to bear. But Miranda has always had the loving support of her foster parents, Leo and Soledad. She has good friends, too, particularly next-door neighbor Zach and Sarah. Lucy needs that support system when she unexpectedly gets pregnant, thereby setting the curse into action. It is not until she finds a long-lost diary that she truly understands what that curse is: she will have a child before she turns eighteen, and then she will go mad. And her only way of saving herself and her child is if she can solve the riddles of Scarborough Fair.

I don't have anything profound to write about regarding my reactions to the book. I simply found myself utterly caught up in Lucy's story. I liked these people. Lucy's no superhero fantasy creature. She's just an ordinary girl you can't help rooting for. I admired her strength of will, her determination, and her courage in the face of a fearsome future. And while it's certainly not a ground-breaking move in a novel for teens to have two neighbors and former best friends fall in love, the development of the relationship between Lucy and Zach was deeply satisfying, even for someone who doesn't typically read romance novels. Zach is probably a little too good to be true, but he's also the kind of guy who should be the illustration accompanying "love/lover". This book is masterfully crafted and beautifully written, with characters who are ordinary yet memorable. It can be read on a surface level, but it can also be read more deeply. It is one of my favorites of the year.

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