Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Nancy Werlin's novel, Impossible, was so beautiful that when I had the opportunity to get an advance reader's copy of Extraordinary, I was thrilled. Perhaps what enthralls me most about her young adult novels is that they don't follow the pattern of other books of that type. One book had faeries, and one had an evil elf, so they were similar to each other as far as both being about magic in a modern, everyday world. Lots of books nowadays are about fantastical creatures: fairies, elves, vampires, werewolves, fallen angels. But Werlin's take on the trend feels unique. Her plots are about a young woman who is in some way cursed by the fantastical creatures and must find the inner strength to be herself and not let a curse determine her fate.

In Extraordinary, Phoebe is one of the wealthy Jewish Rothschilds, descended from many extraordinary ancestors. But Phoebe is also just another teenage girl, trying to make the right friends, wanting to be loved for herself and not for her family name. When Mallory comes along, Phoebe believes she's found the perfect friend, but Mallory's keeping a deadly secret. Phoebe is completely unaware of the faerie world her ancestor Mayer Rothschild stumbled upon and the dangerous deal he bargained. Now the faeries are running out of time, and they will do anything to shape Phoebe into the ordinary girl they need.

I appreciate the refreshing realism of Werlin's stories, despite, or maybe because of, the fantastical elements in them. In her worlds, the fantastical is just out of place as it would be in ours. The characters don't even believe it when they are faced with it. The author also really delves into what it means to grow up and change. Her characters start as girls and become women. It's not a cheap transition either. Sometimes they've almost sold their souls before the transformation. Phoebe gives up nearly everything, sacrificing innocence, for the love of a man. I appreciate that the author doesn't go all the way and have Phoebe lose her virginity, although the result is almost the same in this case. In Impossible, the heroine's loss of virginity is a crucial part of the plot. But the author isn't graphic, and the scenes are relevant to the story in ways other teenage novels do not usually depict.

I don't need a book to always have a moral, and I'd rather a book didn't if it's going to try to hammer me over the head with it. But Extraordinary weaves depth into the plot so effortlessly and meaningfully that it's both an uplifting and an intriguing, entertaining read.

Although I've talked about both Impossible and Extraordinary as almost one book here, I don't mean to say that if you've read one, you don't need to bother with the other; I'm saying only that if you like one, you will most likely enjoy the other. Both stories are unique and stand well apart from one another, and I recommend both.

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