Saturday, September 05, 2009

108 (2009 #33). Impossible

by Nancy Werlin

Inspired by the song “Scarborough Fair,” made famous by Simon and Garfunkel in the late 1960s, Impossible is really an imaginative retelling of the Scottish folk ballad “The Elfin Knight” it is based on. A pleasing blend of fantasy, romance, and suspense, the book is about 17-year-old Lucy Scarborough, who is being raised by loving foster parents after her own teenage mother, Miranda, becomes mentally ill and homeless shortly after Lucy’s birth. Miranda still seeks out Lucy, singing a version of the ballad as a warning, but Lucy is only embarrassed by her.

Lucy is raped by her shy first date at the senior prom, who seems to be possessed and immediately afterward wrecks his car and dies. It’s pretty clear to the reader that Padraig Seeley, the enigmatic and ingratiating new social worker in her foster mother’s office, is the evil being behind this. Lucy becomes pregnant and soon afterward rediscovers her mother’s diary and a long-hidden letter of warning from her. It turns out the Scarborough girls have been cursed for generations by the evil Elfin Knight (guess who?), who impregnates them and causes them to go mad if they cannot perform three impossible tasks in the ballad before their daughters are born – and then the daughter undergoes the same curse. Lucy’s resilience, and the love, backing, and creativity of her family and her “true love,” the boy next door, lead to a gripping climax.

While I would have liked to see more development of the solving of the three tasks as well as the reality behind the romance (the loyalty of the boy next door is a little too convenient), I thought this was a wonderful book. The rape, teen pregnancy, and teen marriage are all handled gracefully and provide great topics for discussion, particularly in a mother-daughter book group. The message about trusting in oneself and in the love and support of family and friends to help overcome even “impossible” situations is the theme of the book. I’d recommend it to high school age and up, and I plan to purchase the title for my library’s YA collection.

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