Saturday, November 7, 2009

Impossible - Nancy Werlin

Title: Impossible
Author: Nancy Werlin
Publisher: Dial Books, 2008 (Hardcover), 2009 (Paperback)
Length: 364 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy/Suspense
Started: November 6, 2009
Finished: November 7, 2009

From the author's website:
Lucy is seventeen when she discovers that the women of her family have been cursed through the generations, forced to attempt three seemingly impossible tasks or to fall into madness upon their child's birth. But Lucy is the first girl who won't be alone as she tackles the list. She has her fiercely protective foster parents beside her. And she has Zach, whose strength amazes her more each day. Do they have enough love and resolve to overcome an age-old evil?

Inspired by the ballad "Scarborough Fair," Impossible combines suspense, fantasy, and romance.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She must be a true love of mine

Tell her she'll sleep in a goose-feather bed
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Tell her I swear she'll have nothing to dread
She must be a true love of mine

Tell her tomorrow her answer make known
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
What e'er she may say I'll not leave her alone
She must be a true love of mine

Her answer it came in a week and a day
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
I'm sorry, good sir, I must answer thee nay
I'll not be a true love of thine

From the sting of my curse she can never be free
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Unless she unravels my riddlings three
She will be a true love of mine

Tell her to make me a magical shirt
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Without any seams or needlework
Else she'll be a true love of mine

Tell her to find me an acre of land
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Between the salt water and the sea strand
Else she'll be a true love of mine

Tell her to plow it with just a goat's horn
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
And sow it all over with one grain of corn
Else she'll be a true love of mine
And her daughters forever possessions of mine

(The version of Scarborough Fair/The Elfin Knight used in Impossible)

A modern day interpretation of a possible story behind the lyrics of the old English ballad 'Scarborough Fair', Impossible is an addictive story that I read in less than 24 hours (over two days) because it was just that good. Werlin's novel has a lot of throwbacks to an old folklore theme of a clever girl who is faced with 3 seemingly impossible tasks that she must complete for some reason or another (we see this in Rumpulptiltskin as well as several other European legends). Lucy Scarborough is 17 and pregnant when she reads her mother's old journal and learns the words to the ballad written above and of the curse placed on the women in her family hundreds of years ago. The Scarborough women all give birth to baby girls at the age of eighteen and then go mad, unless one of them can complete the tasks set forth in the song passed down from mother to daughter.

The hope for Lucy is that she has people helping her: her foster parents, as well as her childhood friend Zach. The novel revolves around the simple themes of true love and what it can accomplish, shown through the relationship between Lucy and Zach. You never question Zach's love for Lucy, he's very obvious in his dedication to her. The story is simple: you know Lucy's fate will be different because she has people helping her that love her, but it keeps you engrossed all the same. The author does an amazing job of taking a old folklore trope and filling it out to apply to modern times (complete with Googling and ordering goat horns off eBay). The characters are well-developed (I especially love how Miranda was portrayed), the story is a page-turner, plus it has old English ballads! Okay, perhaps the English major in me likes those a bit more than most would; but the point remains that this is an excellent book that will keep you reading into the night to finish it.

This book didn't win a ton of awards and stellar reviews for nothing: read it!

Thoughts on the cover:
Thankfully I don't read books based on their covers, because this one doesn't do the novel justice. The hardcover version has the image of the waves at the top, a ton of white space, and the image of the girl walking with the seashore behind her. It's pretty bland. I'm not fond of the paperback version either, though I admit it's more colourful.

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