This is a difficult review for me to write. Nancy Werlin makes several plotting decisions that don’t quite work for me, even though I can see the ways these decisions serve the narrative.
Impossible is a book I should have loved. I adore plots that hinge on the exact wording of curses and prophecies: “none of woman born,” “when two Mondays come together,” that sort of thing. Here is a whole novel based on that concept. Our heroine, Lucy Scarborough, must complete three seemingly impossible tasks in order to save herself and her unborn daughter.
The trouble begins on prom night, when Lucy is raped by a classmate. That’s bad enough by itself, but Lucy suspects that the boy wasn’t really “himself” when he attacked her, and that something even more frightening is afoot. Lucy becomes pregnant, and learns that she comes from a long line of cursed women. If she can’t complete the impossible tasks, she will belong forever to a sinister Elfin Knight, and her daughter will repeat the pattern in eighteen years.
I enjoyed following Lucy on her quest to unravel the riddles, and the Elfin Knight is a really well-crafted villain. His inhuman smoothness is so creepy it’ll send shivers down your spine. That, and it’s refreshing that the controlling supernatural lover is the bad guy, given some of the disturbing trends that have swept YA fantasy in recent years.
To me, the idea of the Elfin Knight possessing random human boys to perpetrate his crimes is a little convoluted. Yet I can see why Werlin did it this way. Making a minor character the biological father avoids an incestuous situation that might just be too icky for YA.
The larger problem is Lucy’s amazing support system. Lucy’s foster parents and her childhood friend Zach never waver in their support for her, and all of them come to believe in the magic far too quickly. The three of them give Lucy lots of help in completing the tasks. I think Werlin is trying to say something about the power of true love. Instead, it makes me wonder what happens to girls whose parents disown them when they get pregnant, girls who don’t have noble young men suddenly deciding to marry them, girls who don’t have the money for big, spontaneous road trips. Would Lucy have a chance at defeating the Elfin Knight without the help of her family and friends? The answer is in the fates of her foremothers. No matter how clever or strong Lucy might be, she’d be doomed if she had to solve her problems on her own.
Impossible contains a good message for the parents of teenage girls: support your daughters, and they can survive the curves life throws them. But to the daughters themselves, it seems to say, “you’re screwed if they don’t.”
Impossible — (2008-2013) Young Adult. Publisher: 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?
I read Impossible a few years ago, and I really loved it. I loved the part about working out the meaning of Scarborough Fair, and I actually thought the message was positive too — rather than trying to do it all alone or hiding something bad that happened to her, she was able to get through it by allowing her family to love and support her. But I see your point about a girl who didn’t have that kind of support available. Perhaps the advice then is to find someone, even if it’s not family, who can help — a teacher, a neighbor, etc — rather than going it alone. (I agree, btw, that it was refreshing to have the supernatural character NOT be the romantic interest. Creepy.) Sorry to be so long-winded. Great review!