Imaginative premise w/room for more, 3.5 stars
Nancy Werlin's first foray into fantasy, IMPOSSIBLE, is designed around an imaginative premise: the women of the Scarborough family have been cursed to become pregnant and go mad by age 18 if they do not complete three seemingly impossible tasks before the birth of their child. Seventeen-year-old Lucy discovers she is part of this family curse and must race to save herself and her unborn daughter from repeating this cycle. Unlike the women before her, Lucy has the support of her foster parents and her friend, Zach, and some guidance from her mother's diary and song. Will Lucy will be able to complete the tasks in time, or will she fail like her foremothers before her?
I was very excited to pick up this book. The premise was original, based in song, and filled with complexities that could be expanded into wonderful plot lines. IMPOSSIBLE was a good read with mature themes, but it didn't capture me like I hoped it would.
Mature themes appear in the book, including rape, teen pregnancy, (perceived) mental illness, foster parenting, teen marriage, and the meaning of real love as shown through sacrifice. I appreciated that these themes were explored and presented as real and pertinent to young adults. Even though Lucy and Zach find themselves in an unusual situation, their love is never downplayed or made to seem less genuine because they are young. Their characters demonstrate palpable (if not completely believable) maturity and awareness about their situation. It was also nice to see parents in a YA novel who are supportive and present. The conversations that Lucy had with her friends about rape and sex were real and raw in their honesty.
On the down side, the heavy themes did slow things and make the text and dialogue feel cumbersome and stilted at times. The recovery from rape, both physically and emotionally, seemed too easy for the character affected. Also, while the premise of the book was completely inventive, the fantasy elements were underdeveloped. Lucy's family and friend Zach were too quick to believe in the curse. Other than deciphering the riddle of the song and feeling threat early on from the villain, there wasn't a feeling of danger and the need to rush to action that I would have expected. For a fantasy book, I would have liked more focus on the fantastical elements and more overt conflict at the climax. Things cleaned up much too nicely at the end.
Overall, I enjoyed this book but felt it could have been improved by more emphasis on the fantasy elements and a greater sense of urgency/threat. The serious and considerate nature with which the mature themes were handled was refreshing, and I think this is a good read for all teens, many of whom face similar issues every day (though thankfully not due to the actions of an elfin knight).