Booklist Reviews

*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. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews

Solving the riddle of a song

Most kids know the traditional folk song "Scarborough Fair" (if they know it at all) from their parents' and grandparents' dusty old Simon & Garfunkel albums. For 17-year-old Lucy Scarborough, however, the haunting ballad takes on life-or-death significance when she learns that the song's riddle-like lyrics might hold the key to breaking the curse that has entrapped generations of Scarborough women.

Raised by her adoring foster parents, Lucy has had a nurturing upbringing. Athletic, smart, funny, loving Lucy seems on track to have the kind of successful life that was never an option for her birth mother, Miranda, who had Lucy when she was 18 and went mad shortly thereafter. Now Miranda is a shadowy, often troubling figure at the margins of Lucy's comfortable life.

But Miranda's story takes on new significance when Lucy herself becomes pregnant the night of her junior prom. Like her mother, Lucy will give birth at age 18. But is she, as the old song seems to suggest, doomed to a life of madness and alienation once she's had her infant daughter? Reading Miranda's old diaries, Lucy decides it's time to take action against the powerful forces determined to take over her life. With equally powerful allies—including her foster parents and boy-next-door Zach—Lucy might be the Scarborough clan's last, best, hope to break the curse that has enslaved them for so long.

With its romantic plot and folkloric roots, Impossible might seem at first glance to be a departure for author Nancy Werlin, best known for suspense novels such as The Killer's Cousin and Double Helix. But, in addition to showcasing her adeptness at developing characters, Impossible remains, in the end, just as suspenseful as any of Werlin's more traditional mystery novels. Romantic tension, a battle between good and evil, and a race against time—all set within a realistic contemporary setting—result in an intriguing medley of genres and a story that will remain in readers' minds much like a beautiful, haunting melody. Copyright 2008 BookPage Reviews.

BookPage Reviews

Looking for a perfect book club book? Impossible!

It’s 9 p.m. on the first Sunday night of the month. Around a living room, my book club has polished off the pound cake that Christina, this month’s hostess, topped with lemon curd. We’ve also just concluded a spirited discussion of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, even though one of us got bogged down in the middle (“Can I just say it’s not Jane Eyre?”) and another one of us never even got started.

 That’s okay. As a club, we’ve been meeting in one configuration or another for years, and we’re casual. Not finishing the book has never been a reason not to enjoy the meal and the gossip, and we don’t even mind when the non-reader joins the conversation with an opinion based on the back cover copy.

But now begins the dangerous part of the meeting. What are we going to read next?


Amy has brought her entire bedside book pile for us to look at, but Michelle is feeling more like nonfiction. Anne recommends another classic, but Jayne disagrees. Libby says we should read John Updike, who died recently. Sarah has a terrific novel in mind that sounds like it would be great for discussion, only she can’t remember what it was called. Christina has only one request: can the book be short?


I love book club, and I love my book club friends. We’ve been with each other through thick and thin. They celebrate every one of my book publications with me, but I won’t let the club actually read and discuss one of my books.


And yet I have to confess that, secretly, I believe my most recent novel, Impossible, is the perfect book club book, possibly even the rare one that that our club will sometimes encounter, the book that manages to seduce everybody into doing the reading and participating excitedly in the discussion. In my book club fantasy of discussing Impossible, our conversation focuses first on the plot and characters and themes, but then widens into a discussion of our own experiences of being women and lovers and mothers and daughters.


Lucy Scarborough, the main character of Impossible, is a daughter in transition into becoming a woman, a lover, a mother—an adult. Her transition is urgent: she is racing the clock of her own accidental pregnancy in an attempt to make a shirt without needle or seam, find an acre of land between salt water and sea strand, and plow the land with a goat’s horn and a single grain of corn.


You might recognize those lines. I had been haunted by the ballad "Scarborough Fair" for almost as long as my book club existed. I had known for years that I wanted to write a novel about the story that, to my mind, lurked behind and between the ballad’s lyrics, a story that would force me to think hard about the primary question the song poses: What is true love?


But for many years, I did not sit down to write this story. I did not have the courage until a time in my life when the central question about love took on an extreme and personal urgency.


Then I wrote in a passion. I wove in family, mystery, danger, a faerie curse, and the history of the Child ballad "Scarborough Fair, or, The Elfin Knight." And as I wrote, I discovered that the story pivots on the meaning of love in all its many aspects, and that true love was wider than romantic love. It includes all the other love and help that we need in our lives. The love of parents and family. The love of friends.

Story is metaphor, of course.


And so, I think I will be brave and ask my club, one month soon, to read my book, Impossible, with me.  Because just now, as I write, I have realized that what I really want is to share a little more of my heart with them, my friends, my book club.  And I hope that the discussion we’ll have after that will show me a little more of theirs.


National Book Award finalist and Edgar Award-winning author Nancy Werlin reads with her book club in Peabody, Massachusetts. You can watch a trailer for Impossible on her website.




Win copies of Impossible to read with your book club! It's easy:

1.) Create a book club profile on our site if you haven't already—must include a photo or image.

2.) Write a review of any book you've read as a club before September 1.

That's it!  Winner will be randomly drawn from among the eligible entries on September 7.

Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

A generations-old family curse renders seventeen-year-old Lucy pregnant (the result of a supernaturally orchestrated rape at prom) and destined for insanity unless she completes three seemingly impossible tasks. The delicious conceit of inflicting a fairy-tale conundrum on a modern-day high schooler means that Lucy employs Google and eBay, along with old-fashioned true love, in her suspenseful battle to break the curse. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

"Lucy is nothing like her mother." Or maybe she is. What twenty-year-old Zach, the boy-next-door in Werlin's imaginative, enticing teen romance, doesn't know is that his good friend Lucy will soon start down the same disturbing path her mother traversed seventeen years earlier. Drawing upon the lyrics of the folk song "Scarborough Fair," Werlin concocts a generations-old family curse that renders seventeen-year-old Lucy pregnant (the result of a supernaturally orchestrated rape at prom) and destined for insanity upon her daughter's birth unless she completes the three seemingly impossible tasks outlined in the song. The delicious conceit of inflicting a fairy-tale conundrum on a modern-day high schooler means that Lucy, her foster parents, and Zach employ Google and eBay, along with old-fashioned true love, in their suspenseful battle to break the curse and best the evil Elfin Knight. 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. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

In this modern-day fairy tale, 17-year-old Lucy and her loved ones apply 21st-century rationality to their quest to escape an ancient curse. Lucy lives with the beloved foster parents who have cared for her since her teenage mother went crazy after Lucy's birth. But what Lucy and her parents don't know is that it's not just Lucy's mother who went mad, but her grandmother, her great-grandmother and further back, through countless generations: She is descended from a long line of women who have babies at age 18 and then go mad. It all seems to be connected to an ancient fairy curse that's detailed in a strange version of the song "Scarborough Fair." Together with her parents and childhood friend Zach, Lucy vows to break the curse. Modern logic and methodology mesh splendidly with fairy lore; if emergency contraception won't break the curse, then maybe duct tape will. The conclusion is startlingly wholesome, comfortable and complete for the usually dark Werlin, and the melding of magic and practicality produces a lovely whole. (Fantasy. 13-16) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

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.)

[Page 74]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews

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

[Page 194]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

Lucy Scarborough does not know much about her birth mother, Miranda, except that she went insane shortly after giving birth. With the exception of Miranda's havoc-wreaking appearances, Lucy has lived a happy, peaceful life with her foster parents, Leo and Soledad. But when Lucy is seventeen, around the same time Miranda begins appearing again, she becomes pregnant after being raped at her high school prom, and she begins to unearth a terrifying family secret. Lucy discovers that her mother's insanity is the result of a curse on the Scarborough women: At eighteen, each woman falls into madness after giving birth to a daughter. It is punishment for their ancestor Fenella's refusal to be the Elfin King's true love. The curse can be broken upon the completion of three impossible tasks, but these tasks might not be so impossible after all because Lucy has what no other Scarborough girl has ever had-supportive parents and a true love of her own. Werlin's book seamlessly weaves fable and fairy tale with Lucy's modern life. Lucy herself is a treasure of a character; she is spunky and unique and fiercely independent. Lucy's rape and subsequent teenage pregnancy are treated compassionately but are discussed in vague terms. Although the final showdown in the book is anticlimactic and the ending is true to fairy-tale style in its pat resolution, the story is original and makes for a fast-paced, compelling read. With its fantasy, mystery, and romantic aspects, the story will appeal to many readers.-Courtney Wika. 4Q 4P J S Copyright 2008 Voya Reviews.