Author: Nancy Werlin
Publisher: Speak (Penguin Group)
Lucy Scarborough 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. How can Lucy succeed when all of her ancestors have tried and failed? 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,” this spellbinding novel combines suspense, fantasy, and romance for an intense and masterfully original tale.
This is another book that I just reread, but my opinion of it hasn’t changed over time so I wanted to write a nice review of it and share my complete love of it.
I love reading books that are paranormal adventures full of fun and romance. Reading the synopsis for this book, you wouldn’t completely associate it with a fascinating fantasy ride full of demonic elf knights and a set of magical tasks. But once you start reading this you’ll find out just how much it hides among its talks of romance and a young girl struggling through pregnancy.
One thing I love about this book is that it has a lot of deep and mature stuff but it handles it in such a beautiful way. The main issue when you read this book is teenage pregnancy and rape. Lucy is seventeen years old and suddenly finds herself pregnant after her prom date rapes her. One of the things that I’m really happy with is how these issues are handled, especially the rape. The book doesn’t shy away from the rape, but at the same time it doesn’t tell every gory little detail. Werlin writes it in a way that isn’t just screaming for attention, trying to get some shock value by describing such a horrible event. Instead, it presents it in a way that very real, but it doesn’t go into detail. It’s hard to describe exactly how it’s handled unless you’ve read it yourself, but I appreciate how, instead of trying to get that shock value and establish the book as a story of incredible issues, it presents it in a beautiful way, showing what’s happening rather than coming out and saying it. The word ‘rape’ isn’t even used until two or three chapters later. This is a perfect example of showing rather than telling, something that always displays great writing.
Of course, as I said earlier, this isn’t just a contemporary book. Though it has all the aspects of any realistic young adult fiction story, it also has the beautiful fantasy story entwined perfectly. Using a real song, Scarborough Fair, as its focal point for this part of the story, it weaves a story about a cursed line of women who are all doomed to have daughters when they’re eighteen and then go mad when their daughters are born. Lucy is level-headed and rational but she’s forced into this mess because of a decision made by her ancestress in response to an Elfin Knight. Her foster parents and childhood best friend are also brought into this Other World, and together they all try to solve the three impossible tasks given to Lucy in the song, in hopes that they will break the curse and save Lucy from madness.
As most young adult story include, there’s romance in this beautiful book. Lucy and Zach’s relationship is the type I would love to have – they grew up together, next door neighbors and best friends. They’ve had their bumps along the way – the two year difference in age meant that while growing up they sometime grew apart, but they always came back together – but all relationships do, which makes their all the more real. When the story opens, they have an incredibly close friendship which has slight strains of something more. Zach is fiercely protective of Lucy, like any older brother would be, but there are the whispers of more than sibling love. Zach’s jealously of Lucy’s prom date stirs slightly but he’s able to overlook that at the beginning. And as Lucy goes through all the trouble of being pregnant, he does his best to support her while still being wary of how much her life has changed. Their relationship is quite real, based first on a true friendship before it turned to romance and all the physicality of teenage romance. And I love how the narrating tends to switch between the two so that we can get a look at how each feels about what’s going on, and we get the chance to see their relationship slowly evolve.
Lucy is also a great protagonist. She’s confident in herself without being cocky. She’s very rational and it takes her some time to take the curse seriously, but luckily she doesn’t completely ignore it so that you want to hit her for being so oblivious. Rather, you wish she were your best friend because she seems like the type who would always have your back and would be willing to tell you the truth if that’s what you need to hear, rather than what you want – that’s the very thing she does for her best friend at the opening of the book. I think that Lucy comes across as a very real teen who’s forced through a hell that not many are, but she still manages to remain relatable.
If you haven’t figured out by now, this is definitely a favorite of mine. It’s beautifully written and makes me think and cry and feel so attached to the characters that I feel for them whenever there’s a setback or something goes wrong. There’s only one thing that could ruin it – a sequel. I’m the type of person who loves being able to continue reading about favorite characters of mine – I tend to be for sequels to movies even if the first one successfully wrapped up the storyline – but this book is one that would be ruined with a sequel, at least in my opinion. I loved the ending and think that it worked perfectly, and writing a second book just because this one was fairly popular and got fairly good reviews would be horrible. Having the story continue means that the characters would have to have another problem to deal with, which I think would be horrible. I like how it ended and feel like things resolved perfectly and wouldn’t want to drag the story on and ruin some of the magic.
Overall, this book is one of the best I’ve read. I know that this review was long – probably the longest I’ll ever write, but we’ll have to wait and see – but there’s just so much I want to praise and talk about. I feel like this book can satisfy a large audience of people, whether they like contemporary, fantasy, or romance, and I hope that this review helps more people discover this little gem because it should be read by everyone.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars