“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Impossible • Young adult fiction

Impossible by Nancy Werlin
August 2009 Puffin/Penguin Young adult fiction Ages 12 and up
"A haunting, thrilling, romantic puzzle. Just read it." -- Gregory Maguire, author of WICKED.
Story: 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.

Story-behind-the-story: "I’ve written seven young adult novels, but my most recent novel, IMPOSSIBLE, is the first time I’ve written the kind of ‘comfort book’ I most love to read," says author Nancy Werlin. "IMPOSSIBLE was inspired by the ballad Scarborough Fair. I loved the Simon & Garfunkel version as a teenager, but when I heard it again one day as an adult, I was struck by the lyrics. The man, singing, makes one impossible demand after another of the woman, and if she doesn't do as he says, she's "no true love" of his! I thought: There’s no way that woman can prove herself to that man; he’s already made up his mind. Did she do him wrong? What’s the story? What's true love?

Could I construct a puzzle-type novel around the lyrics? Suppose, for some unknown reason, a girl has to prove her love by actually performing the three tasks. I’d use a modern setting, I planned, and I’d have her figure it out using technology. Surprise him. He’s wrong, it turns out. She does understand true love. She can prove it.

But I couldn’t quite imagine the situation under which the puzzle-solving would occur. The characters, the plot, the impetus, the urgency? Love was clearly involved, somehow, but I just didn’t know enough.
It took more than ten years for me to figure it out."


“This tale, inspired by the song "Scarborough Fair," showcases the author's finesse at melding genres [with its] graceful interplay between wild magic and contemporary reality [and its] catapulting suspense.” —Booklist, starred review

"Teens, especially young women, will enjoy this romantic fairy tale with modern trappings."
School Library Journal, starred review

A New York Times Bestseller

"Readers will swoon at the intensity of emotion building between Lucy and Zach. Zach is much hunkier than Rumpelstiltskin, but his assistance still comes at a price. Not a painful one, though—unless you're not into dreamy guys vowing to devote themselves to you forever and ever."
Horn Book

"Readers will be drawn into Lucy's struggle to defeat the ancient evil spirit of the Elfin Knight by trading in her logical nature for innate instincts and keeping her independent spirit while trusting in her loved ones." — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

"Modern logic and methodology mesh splendidly with fairy lore... a lovely whole." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Book groups/book clubs: Nancy Werlin will call in! Request a video chat or a phone call event with Nancy, and she'll be happy to talk with your book club. E-mail for more details.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


Julia Pitau said...

A copy of Impossible is already in our library and keeps popping off the shelf! Nancy Werlin became an often requested author after so many students read The Rules of Survival. And students have not been disappointed with Impossible. I hope everyone who is able to obtain a copy through The Picnic Basket will also enjoy it.

Happy Holidays,

Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Dawn said...

I purchased a copy of this for myself a while back. I found this book to be a refreshing change to the fairy tale world. I thoroughly enjoyed this read.

Lucy comes to realize that the women in her family have had a curse placed upon them many generations ago. The pattern follows for every daughter and she has the key ingredients to help in her attempt to break the curse... modern technology.

I highly recommend this book for the high school library shelves. If you can win a copy, that's even better. I am sorry that I missed the message about the possibilities because I haven't purchased the library's copy yet.

Dawn VanLerberghe
K-12 Librarian
Baraga Area Schools

Natalie H. said...

I became completely engrossed with this book after reading the first chapter! Impossible is a great story set in present day. The authors created characters readers will really care about. I would recommend this book for readers no younger than 16 years old due to some of the adult situations. I'd give this book 4 stars!

dmuldawer said...

When I got this book, I found it "impossible" to put down.

Of major interest was the solving of the three tasks. This was done in a way that was both plausible and clever and the tension inherent in completing the tasks before the birth of the baby added to the excitement.

For the most part, the characters were well drawn and three dimensional. From the mesmerizing Elfin Knight to the passionate foster parents to the supportive friends to the "insane" Miranda, each character breathed truth into his/her own existence. There were only two times that character development felt forced.

The first was when 17 year old Sarah generated advice I'd expect from someone with a Ph.D. in psychology. More importantly, though, was Zach's passionate declaration of love. I could see him marrying Lucy in order to protect her baby as a gift of friendship, but to suddenly fall madly and passionately in love with a pregant woman who just chewed him out for not being a good enough friend seems forced. The marriage and love angle is quite important in terms of protection from the Elfin Knight, but I wonder if the love could've developed more naturally.

Although Impossible deals with tough issues, it deals with them instead of skirting them. I really liked how issues such as the morning-after pill and abortion were discussed as possibilities and the rape itself was handled quite tastefully. Werlin did a beautiful job of capturing the violence of the act without going into excessive detail. I wonder though why Lucy wasn't transferred to another school. In our city, there's a special school for girls who get pregnant. And if not a school, why not a visit from a social worker or legal rights for Spencer's parents?

Because of the issues of rape and very frank discussions of sexuality, this book would be most appropriate for high school students and adults. That said, my posse of sixth graders who live and breathe the Twilight series would definitely enjoy this, though I'd feel obligated to put some kind of warning label on it.

Impossible is a fascinating book with much to offer and is definitely worth adding to middle school and high school libraries.

Picnic Basket Rating: 4

Anonymous said...

I truly enjoyed reading Impossible and Know that my students will also. Nancy Werlin did a beautiful job making her characters and the plot very believable. Thank you Nancy for the disscusion questions that you added and the story behind the book. Scarborough Fair was a song that I listened to as a teenager and never really focused on the lyrics. How bizarre a love song can be. I liked how Nancy took the lyrics and spun it into a story.
I will give this a five in my picnic basket. I know that once the girls get ahold of this story that it will be well read.

Catherine said...

I just finished IMPOSSIBLE and was impressed by it. When I first started reading it, I thought that it was just another take off of the NEW MOON saga. I was very wrong. Lucy and Zach, a young couple thrust together because of magical intervention, are a great pairing. They are equals from the beginning and rely on each other's strength and abilities to save not only Lucy's life and sanity, but the future of her unborn daughter. I was very impressed to see such a strong bond between the two. My students would love to read this. I also really appreciated the discussion questions at the back of the book. It would help with creating lessons and refreshing what I am already teaching to my special education high school students.

I rate this a 5.

Catherine Yezak, Special Edcuation teacher, Marquette Area Public Schools, Marquette, Michigan

Anonymous said...

Where was Impossible when I was in high school? Its combination of a modern-day teen, supernatural happenings, and true love makes for a timeless story. The popularity of Twilight, which has these same elements, should make Impossible even easier to promote to readers. After reading it, they'll want to read Nancy's other books.
I probably appreciated reading this book more as an adult because it was interesting to see how the author managed to work out the modern-day perfomance of the tasks and believably tie up all the loose ends.
It's book for eighth grade readers and up--and I'd give it a 5.

Barbara Duggan said...

Intriguing, compelling, complex, romantic, thoughtful, choices, responsibility...all these words come to mind with this book.

Although I think our (upper)middle schoolers would enjoy reading this on a surface level, I think it better suited for a high school library because of the depth and intensity of the questions asked of its characters.

Rating: 4.5/5

Pamela Kramer said...

I was glad I got this book to read because I had seen it on the shelf at Borders (where I work on Saturdays for a few hours in the children/YA area) and did not think I would enjoy it.

BUT, when I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I read it in one day and, as stated previously by others, loved how the song I appreciated as a teenager was turned into a story.

The book is difficult to put down partly because the reader really cares about the characters of Lucy and Zach.

I think this book would be enjoyed by both teenagers and adults. I find that more and more adults love reading YA books--simply because so many of them are such good reads!

El said...

A very good book. A great purchase for public library YA collections. Best for older teens and Adults who enjoy reading YA. Great combinations of themes: fairy tale, romance, and friendship. 3 1/2-4 stars

Megan B. said...

When I received this book in the mail almost a week ago, I had basically forgotten about it. I was right in the middle of this other amazing book and did not want to put that aside to read Impossible, although I knew I had to. I ended up not minding at all. This book was so good.

I know some of the other reviewers noted the similarities to Twilight, and I agree that this will make it easy to recommend. I think the writing is so much better. Lucy is a strong female character, which I love. I love that it has supernatural aspects, but is grounded in the real world. All in all, I would give this book a 5.

Anonymous said...

This modern fairy tale will appeal to those readers who enjoy their fantasy blended with a dose of reality. What could have been a “routine” date rape / pregnancy story blossomed into a multi-layered story of the battle of wills between a loving family and a vengeful “Elfin Knight”. An insane mother character that appears periodically is given a realistic portrayal as a person needing help and understanding even when she physically hurts the ones she loves. My only criticism of this book is the final few pages – I won’t share the actual event but I thought it was something of a quick fix. I give it 4 out of 5.

ahslibrarian said...

Impossible is possible because of the romp through fable, fantasy, and a modern girl’s adventure that Nancy Werlin provides for her readers. Add to that mix some romantic tension, mystery, and a race against the clock and you get one book that is a real page turner.

Girls will always be more attracted to this book because of the character Lucy, but adolescent males may also find something strangely attractive about this book. Good books have a way of luring readers beyond any target demographic.

Middle and high schools will want to be sure to include this book on their next purchase orders. Motivated teachers might also weave this book into a unit that includes fable and fantasy. Impossible generates a ton of ideas for usage in the classroom. When books have a familiar feel the first time you pick them and turn a few pages it is time to take notice. The experience can be filled with dread or like that of visiting an old friend. Impossible provides the latter experience. Add it with confidence to the adolescent collection.

5 out of 5

John Parker
Media Coordinator
Andrews High School
50 HS Drive
Andrews, NC 28901

M Battista said...

The first 100 pages were so captivating. I couldn't put it down. Unfortunately the next 100 pages were a drag. I wanted the action of completing the tasks to begin, but the story just languished for me. Luckily the last 100 pages kicked up the action a couple of notches. I liked the fact that Lucy shared her problem with her parents. So many teen novels have protagonists who try to deal with everything on their own. I think Lucy would have been a stronger character if she had participated more in the research process of completing the tasks. She seemed to let her parents and love interest do all the work. The scenes from the proposal to the marriage felt rushed. The reader should have seen Lucy and Zach sell the idea to their parents- especially Zach's. I was also a little surprised that a virgin who was raped didn't have much difficulty hopping into bed with her new husband just a few months after the rape. I think such a young lady would most likely have a few issues to work out. Overall I enjoyed this book. Although the last 2/3 of it didn't measure up to the dynamite beginning I do believe that this will be a hit with high school students. I give it a rating of 3.5.

Denair, CA

Carol said...

I usually shy away from anything with a supernatural feel, but I actually really liked this book and have already recommended it to others. The characters were strong and interesting and their lives and experiences were believable. Even the supernatural parts were powerful enough to express the intended message without appearing unrealistic. I often have 3-4 books going at one time, but all were put to the side until I finished Impossible. I had to know what happened, and every page fed my appetite with mystery and romance. Without a doubt I give this a 5 star. It is well written with great organization and sentence fluency. I don't agree that this book is for high school students, I find it very suitable to the likes of students from 6th grade and up.

deltay said...

Inspired by the ballad 'Scarborough Fair', Nancy Werlin captures the achingly poignant concepts of the song beautifully in Impossible. There's something majestic and romantic about the way olde mythological magic is incorporated into a relatively contemporary setting.

I'll admit - at the beginning of the book, I'd been a little worried; it sounded like it might just be trying a tad too hard to mimic the contemporary teenage years. (Although now realizing that this was originally published in 1994 does change that somewhat.) However, as the book progressed, there was something very enchanting about the language, the diction choice, the phrasing. It almost seemed symbolic of Lucy's incredible characterization journey - a youngster treading water, testing it out, and then growing and flourishing into her own person. The voice just fit with Impossible - it was alluring, like the way the Elfin Knight's voice is described to be.

The research and forethought that must've gone into this is pretty impressive. It's great to observe the puzzle unraveling, to watch the characters hurtle towards the unknown. Despite being a little hard to relate to at times, the characters, most notably Lucy, Zach, Miranda, Soledad, Leo... they were all very intriguing and quite likable.

The way the ballad was incorporated in various incarnations throughout was definitely highly enjoyable and interesting. The journey depicted through the course of this tale, the mythic elements that came into play... all in all, it made for a romantically magical story.

Nancy Werlin's Impossible thrillingly weaves romance, magic and intrigue into one achingly beautiful tale.


Angela said...

Impossible has got to be the most realistic fantasy book I've ever read! The author brought to life a world, very close to ours, "a world of magic and curses and uncanny things, a world that was not rational" in a way that made me believe it might just be true. I found the book had just enough foreshadowing to allow the reader to make engaging predictions and inferences, yet still remain in suspense on every page. No word was wasted in this book. It all meant something and begged to be paid attention to. I could not stop reading! The ending was satisfying, yet left me with enough thoughts still reeling about what would come next for the characters. This is a 5 out of 5, no doubt!

cupcake said...

To compare this to Twilight is almost an insult to Nancy Werlin, who can flesh out a character and write realistic, meaningful dialogue.

I really enjoyed this book. I thought that Lucy was a believable character in that she struggles with how to manage her mother (what teen girl doesn't under the best of circumstances?) as well as how to manage her gratitude and love towards her foster family. I also liked her relationship with her foster parents.

This is not a perfect novel; too much of it is tied together very neatly, with a big red bow. Zach falls in love with Lucy a little too readily; Sarah is a little too supportive; and the marriage between Lucy and Zach is a little too perfect, despite the whole possession thing.

Still, it's a good book that my female 10th and 11th grade students will love. I don't see many boys being drawn to it, but the girls will be all over it.

Picnic Basket Rating: 4

WS, librarian said...

I'm not typically a fan of the fantasy novels of the day. Thinking that this would be another Twilight clone, I put off reading it for a bit. When I finally forced myself to start it, I found I couldn't put it down. I love the idea of taking the lyrics of the folk ballad and weaving them into an engrossing story. The believable resolution of the three tasks, and the mature responses to the problems presented to the main characters was refreshing. I would hesitate to put this out for middle graders as I wouldn't want to deal with parental response concerning the rape and abortion discussion but would unhesitatingly reccommend it for high school and adult readers.
I give it a 5.

Molly said...

Realistic fantasy (if that’s possible) is the best way to describe this book. It drew me in quickly and kept me reading. I adored it up until the end, where the happily-ever-after fairy tale was tied up neatly. The end was a little too over the top for me, but I don’t think that will deter teenage girls from loving this book, though, since that is often exactly what they are looking for. It certainly won’t deter me from suggesting this book to students either; it simply knocked my rating down one notch. I give this a 4/5.

Molly Matchak, Librarian
Hickory High School

Inky Fingers said...

Werlin skillfully weaves elements of both contemporary realistic fiction and modern fantasy into a unique and well-told tale! Teens will be intrigued by the use of a well known folk song to convey a family curse through the generations.

Lucy, the main character, is like Juno with a dose of superwoman thrown in the mix. She fearlessly faces the Elfin Knight and tackles the seemingly impossible tasks with determination even in the face of crippling adversity. Her strength makes her a much stronger female character than Twilight's Bella...though the themes of love and supernatural are present in both stories.

Stephanie White
Professor of Children's Literature
Cameron University
Lawton, OK

Kim Watson said...

This is a wonderful read for all middle and high school students; however, I feel girls will find it more enjoyable because of the content. It captures your attention during the first chapter and keeps your interest throughout the entire story. Like others have stated, it is a mixture of realistic fiction and fantasy. I would suggest libraries obtaining at least two copies because students will absolutely love it!

Rating 5/5

Anonymous said...

Summer vacation is here and I'm able to catch up on some reading. I received my copy of Impossible and was intrigued by the first 75-100 pages. I have to agree with another reviewer that the next 100 or so pages dragged. I put the book down until recently and just finished. The book is well written, but I think the author lost some momentum in the middle. This may cause readers to lose interest. This book is for high school students due to the subject matter. I give this book 4 out of 5.