The readers on my Christmas list normally get gift cards to Borders or B&N, but in 2009 I loved two books so much I felt that I had to share them with others. One of those books was Nancy Werlin’s Impossible, a retelling of the story in the song Scarborough Fair. Those of you who have heard the song know it has a haunting, lilting melody that stays with you long after it is over. The same is true for the book – you will not easily forget it or the love story it tells. Needless to say, when I learned Werlin had another book about the Fae coming out, I jumped at the opportunity to review it. Extraordinary tells the tale of Phoebe Rothschild, a girl from an infamous and privileged family who fears that she is the only ordinary member of a fantastic group of people.
Our tale begins when seventh-grade Phoebe determines she no longer wants to be part of the “in” crowd. Part of that determination is inspired by Mallory, a new student at the school who is ridiculously awkward, ferocious, and needy. Mallory, dressed incomprehensibly in a fairy Halloween costume at the start of school, is the brunt of abuse from Phoebe’s former crowd. And Phoebe’s first act of defiance is to extend the hand of friendship to Mallory, clean up her wardrobe, and get her on the right track to fitting in.
Years later the two are best of buds and Phoebe thinks they know each other’s darkest secrets. Then Mallory springs the news on her that she has an older brother, Ryland, who is coming to visit. Phoebe has swallowed a lot of weirdness regarding Mallory’s life, and while she is hurt that she never even heard of this brother, she isn’t reluctant to embrace this newest aspect of mystery. Ryland immediately mesmerizes Phoebe, in spite of the fact that Mallory seems reluctant to see the two get close. And then Phoebe learns the truth of exactly why Ryland and Mallory seem so different. And just why they are so focused upon her.
From the beginning the reader knows who and what Mallory and Ryland are, even if we don’t know what their need for Phoebe is. For me, that made it difficult to deal with Phoebe’s near gullible acceptance of everything different about them. I kept wanting to yell at her to open her eyes and see them for what they were. She is also an amazingly kind and caring creature, and that also makes it harder to watch what is happening and not want to reach into the book and throttle the Fae. The fact that this is an underlying facet of the book – that Phoebe’s goodness of heart is extraordinary but alien to the Fae and therefore difficult for them to see as a positive – doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. Instead, it makes Mallory, Ryland and the Queen seem even more alien and unlikable than their cruel actions have already made them. Since the book revolves primarily around the four of them it made me feel like I was reading about two vicious creatures, their reluctant ally, and their fool. Not fun. At all.
There are redeeming factors. The mystery surrounding the Fae’s need for Phoebe is intriguing, the book is extraordinarily well written and as it progresses we are introduced to other, genuine friends of Phoebe. Phoebe’s goodness of heart does thaw the block of ice in Mallory’s chest and that leaves us with hope for the cold, uncaring Fae. In the end, Phoebe shows just how amazing she truly is by bringing about a surprising resolution to the Fae dilemma, one I felt was long over due. These things make the book well worth reading, even if they don’t push it into DIK range.