Cover image for Impossible
Title:
Impossible
Author:
Werlin, Nancy.
ISBN:
9780142414910
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Speak, 2009, c2008.
Physical Description:
376 p. ; 21 cm.
General Note:
Includes discussion guide.
Abstract:
When seventeen-year old Lucy discovers her family is under an ancient curse by an evil Elfin Knight, she realizes to break the curse she must perform three impossible tasks before her daughter is born in order to save them both.

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Summary

Summary

A beautifully wrought modern fairy tale from master storyteller and award-winning author Nancy Werlin

Inspired by the classic folk ballad "Scarborough Fair," this is a wonderfully riveting novel of suspense, romance, and fantasy. Lucy is seventeen when she discovers that she is the latest recipient of a generations-old family curse that requires her to complete three seemingly impossible tasks or risk falling into madness and passing the curse on to the next generation. Unlike her ancestors, though, Lucy has family, friends, and other modern resources to help her out. But will it be enough to conquer this age-old evil?


Author Notes

Nancy Werlin was born and raised in Peabody, Massachusetts. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Yale University. Besides writing fiction, she has worked as a technical writer and editor for several computer software and Internet companies. She won the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Novel for The Killer's Cousin in 1999.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

School Library Journal Review

Gr 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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

Werlin (TheRules of Survival) melds fantasy and suspense in a contemporary setting for a romance with plenty of teen appeal. Lucy Scarborough, raped on prom night, is pregnant. Committed to keeping the baby, she nonetheless sees disturbing parallels to her mentally ill mother, Miranda, who had Lucy as a teen, then left her in the care of the Markowitzes--Soledad, a nurse-midwife, and her husband, Leo. Boy-next-door-type Zach, home from college and living with the Markowitzes, happens upon Miranda's teenage diary, which outlines a curse placed on Lucy's family generations earlier by the evil Elfin Knight: the women all give birth as teens before descending into madness. Lucy can break the curse only by performing three impossible tasks set forth in a variant of the ballad Scarborough Fair. None of her forebears have come even close, but then none of them had help from the selfless Markowitzes, the love-struck and self-sacrificing Zach or the Internet, where items like goat horns can be easily located: Lucy is the luckiest accursed girl ever. Werlin disguises the retro elements by creating feminist male leads, and even though the outcome is never in doubt, she builds nail-biting tension. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*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.--Mattson, Jennifer Copyright 2008 Booklist


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1 Ten minutes after the last class of the day, Lucy got a text message from her best friend, Sarah Hebert. "Need u," it said. "2 mins," Lucy texted back. She sighed. Then she hefted her backpack and headed to the girls' locker room, where, she knew, Sarah would be. Nothing and nobody, not even Jeff Mundy, got in the way of track practice. Because of course this problem of Sarah's would be about Jeff. Lucy had seen him at lunch period, leaning flirtatiously over an adorable freshman girl. Maybe this time Sarah would have had it with him for good. Lucy hoped so. But still, it was delicate. And it wasn't like Lucy had a lot of experience to guide her friend with. Or any, really, if you didn't count Gray Spencer, which you couldn't, not yet, anyway. No, she didn't have experience, Lucy thought fiercely, but she did have years of understanding about who, exactly, Sarah was and what made her happy. And also, frankly, some basic common sense. Which Sarah had totally lost. Lucy found Sarah already changed and sitting on a bench by Lucy's locker. "Are you all right?" Lucy asked. "Yeah. It's just--it's not Jeff, it's me. I'm the one with the problem." Sarah made a little motion with her hand. "But now we have to go to practice." Lucy put an arm around her and squeezed. "There'll be plenty of time to talk later if you want." Sarah nodded and tried to smile. Lucy turned to change. Then they walked out together toward the school's track, moving to the infield to stretch. Lucy's practice routine as a hurdler was different from Sarah's distance training, but they always did as much together as they could. When they were side by side doing leg stretches, Sarah was finally able to talk. Lucy listened patiently to all of it, even the parts she'd heard many times before. But when Sarah said, "We both agreed from the start that we weren't serious and Jeff's right that it truly is my problem that I'm so jealous, not his, because he's not doing anything wrong," Lucy couldn't help herself. She cut in. "Sarah, please. It's not a problem that you want something more serious than Jeff does. There's nothing wrong with you that you want that! And there's also nothing wrong that he doesn't. Can't you see? It's just that you're fundamentally incompatible. You should just say so and move on." "But I don't want to move on! He's such fun and so smart and good-looking and I just love him and if I could only control the way I feel when--" "Then be his friend. But that's it. For more, look around for somebody who's not going to hurt you all the time. Even if Jeff doesn't mean to hurt you, it's still pain, right?" Lucy grabbed one foot, and, standing on the other leg, pulled the foot behind her to stretch her quad muscles. She decided not to say that Jeff knew perfectly well he was hurting Sarah, and didn't care, so long as he got to do what he wanted to do, which included being with Sarah whenever he felt like it. Sarah was silent for a minute, concentrating on her own quad stretch. Then she said, "Lucy, I don't think you understand. I can't really control how I feel. I can't just look around for somebody else. I want what I want. Who I want." Lucy switched legs. She chose her words carefully. "But this is hurting you so much. It can't be right." "Love hurts," said Sarah simply. "That's okay. It's supposed to." "I don't believe it," Lucy said. "Look at Soledad and Leo." "People who've been married umpteen years like your foster parents are different," said Sarah impatiently. "When you first fall in love, it's supposed to be awful. Awful, uncertain, scary, wonderful, confusing, all at once. That's how you know it's real. You have to care deeply. Passionately. That hurts." Lucy got down on the ground, stretched her legs to each side, and began pressing her head and torso out to the left. "I don't know." As she switched to the right side, she found that Sarah had gotten down too, and was looking her in the face from three inches away. "Lucy, look. You can't just make a list of what qualities would be compatible for you and pick somebody based on that. You have to, well, consult your heart. And if love doesn't hurt sometimes, well, then." Sarah actually put a hand over her heart. "Then maybe you don't truly care." "Oh, please!" Lucy sat up. "Can't you consult both your heart and your head? Shouldn't they be in agreement? And, also, I'm telling you, I continue to not like the pain thing. Continued pain is a signal to the body that there's something wrong, not right." "But we're talking about the heart, not the body." "Why should that be different? Pain is to be avoided." At this, Sarah laughed. "Really? That's your philosophy? Tell me that after practice today." Lucy went to the left on her stretch again. "I don't like interval training! I just do it. Anyway, that's not the same kind of pain, and you know it." It was good to hear Sarah laugh, she thought, even though she knew that the abrupt change of subject meant that Sarah was done, wanted no more advice, and would, no doubt, go right on breaking her heart over Jeff Mundy. Well, all right. Lucy had said what she had to say. And she would say it again if and when she was asked. Or possibly even if she wasn't asked. Sarah, who was done with her stretching, stood up. "Listen, Lucy. Now that you've got this kind-of-sort-of-maybe dating thing about to happen with Gray Spencer, with the prom and all, I'm thinking that pretty soon you'll start to see what I'm talking about." Lucy snorted. "I like Gray, but hello? Were you listening to me at all? About pain?" "If you're expecting a walk in the park--" They were interrupted by the coach calling the track team around and assigning them their workouts. "Call me later," Sarah said. Lucy nodded, and Sarah went off on her run. Lucy and the other two hurdlers began doing drills with tightly spaced hurdles, practicing alternating their lead legs. Lucy worked out hard. She always did; it was her strongest point as an athlete. She was good, but she didn't have any truly extraordinary level of talent, and she knew it. What she did have was will and determination. And next year, if she kept it up and was lucky, she thought she might have a shot at going to states and maybe also at some college scholarship money, which would be a big help to her foster parents. That was her real goal. Even though her parents had told her not to worry about college costs, that they would figure it out, she wanted to help all she could. Wonderful as they were, and loved as Lucy had always felt, she never lost a certain consciousness that she was indebted to them. She tried her best to be perfect for Soledad and Leo Markowitz. Here it was really no problem, though. She loved hurdling. When it went well, when she got her striding length and her pace and her hurdles just right, there was nothing like it. Nothing like how competent and powerful and whole it made her feel. Lucy didn't know exactly what made her lose her focus during that practice. A prickly feeling on the back of her neck? The creeping conviction that she was being watched? But suddenly she lost her rhythm and messed up her hurdle. She landed hard on the track on one knee, with the hurdle coming down beside her. And she looked up to see her mother. Not her foster mother, Soledad, but her real mother, Miranda. It was unmistakably her. Miranda had materialized on the other side of the track, right near the bleachers. She was wearing a thin purple gauze skirt and a red T-shirt that was far too big for her. She was pushing a supermarket shopping cart that was laden with returnable plastic and glass bottles and other trash. "Lucy, you okay?" It was Sindy Gillespie, the best hurdler on the team, helping Lucy up. "Sure." Lucy got up slowly, trying to figure out what to do. What was right? Should she interrupt practice and go try to talk to Miranda? Or would that be the same exercise in futility it had always been? Miranda had never come to Lucy's school before. Always, in the past, on those rare occasions she showed up, she had come to Soledad and Leo's house, and caused the entire family endless grief and anguish. Sindy Gillespie was following Lucy's gaze. Miranda had stopped walking now and was staring right at Lucy with her big, brown--and quite insane--eyes. "Have you seen that crazy bag lady before?" Sindy asked Lucy. "I have. I saw her yesterday just outside the cafeteria. She was going through the trash and eating stuff. And she was singing! Poor thing, but still, ick." "No," Lucy lied. "I've never seen her before." She immediately felt guilty. And she felt a little stir of curiosity too. "What was she singing, Sindy?" "I don't know." "Oh." Lucy bit her lip, containing her impulse to sing a few bars of a particular song and ask if that was it. But she knew it was. Miranda had been singing one song, a version of an old folk ballad, every time she showed up in Lucy's life. Lucy was sick of it. But the ballad still haunted her. Twined itself unexpectedly in her mind and inner ear, which was where it was now. 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. As Lucy and Sindy watched, Miranda parked her cart and sat down on the bottom bleacher. She pulled her legs up before her, under her skirt, and sat with her thin, muscular arms tightly corded around them. Her lips moved, though no sound came out. "She's looking right at us!" said Sindy. "And I think she's singing again too." "I know," said Lucy tersely. "Let's ignore her." "Yeah. We need to get back to it anyway. Are you going to do another one?" "Okay," said Lucy. What would Sindy think, Lucy thought, if she excused herself and went over? Or what if she said: "I do know her. That's my mother." But she didn't. Instead, she continued to practice, if badly. It wasn't just Miranda's gaze. The rhythm of the song in her inner ear also interfered with the rhythm of Lucy's strides, and she couldn't get it right. When practice ended and she finally looked again, Miranda was gone. Excerpted from Impossible by Nancy Werlin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.