Review of Extraordinary, by Nancy Werlin


by Nancy Werlin

Speak (Penguin), 2010. 393 pages.
Starred Review

After reading Nancy Werlin’s Impossible on the plane on the way to Portland, Oregon, I went to two different Powell’s locations looking for the sequels. And had them finished before I got home.

Extraordinary isn’t exactly a sequel to Impossible, but it’s got a similar element of Faery and our world interacting with one another. And the third book, Unthinkable, has threads from each of the previous two books. So you don’t have to read the first and second books in order, but it’s good to have read them before you read the third book.

In a short section called “Conversation with the Faerie Queen, 1,” which appears before “Chapter 1,” we learn that a faerie girl is being sent into the human realm.

“You are anxious. Naturally. It is a great deal of responsibility. But remember, your way has been prepared. The Tolliver woman will believe you to be her own human daughter, miraculously restored to her. Grief, depression, and loneliness have caused her to lose herself, so she will gratefully accept your guidance in all things, young though you are. Managing her will be easy for you; you will give her certain human medications to keep her under your influence, and you will use her money for all your needs in the human realm.”

“I understand. And the Rothschild girl?”

“The girl is of course your main focus. You will observe her at school. I need not tell you again that everything — everything — depends on her.”

“The stakes are high.”

“Frighteningly high, at this point. It is useless to deny it.”

Chapter One begins with the sentence: “Phoebe Gutle Rothschild met Mallory Tolliver in seventh grade, during the second week of the new school year, in homeroom.” From the conversation with the Faerie Queen, we know something’s up, that something’s at stake, but we don’t know what. Mallory is being talked about by everyone for how peculiar she is.

However, Phoebe decides to be Mallory’s friend. Mallory meets again with the Faerie Queen:

“But child, what you’re saying doesn’t make sense. You are absolutely sure the Rothschild girl is the right one? And yet you say she is not ready?”

“Yes, she is the right one, and yes, she is not ready. That other human girl that we were watching, the one called Colette – she had not achieved what we thought she had. The Rothschild girl was fighting back. While she is not very self-assured, she has personal strength of will. Your Majesty, I now understand that when we observe human activity from outside, we can be mistaken when we try to interpret what it means.”

Mallory goes from saying she can finish in a few days to a few weeks, and then to a few years. We pick up the story four years later – “four good, solid years of best-friendship later.” One day, Mallory tells Phoebe that her half-brother is coming to live with her and her mother. Phoebe doesn’t believe it at first. Mallory has never mentioned a brother before.

Mallory’s brother Ryland is older and incredibly handsome. And he is very interested in Phoebe. And it doesn’t take long before Phoebe is obsessed with him. But why do they have to keep it secret from Mallory? And what is Mallory trying to tell her?

We’re eventually going to learn what the Faerie world wants with Phoebe Rothschild and what the high stakes are. And we also get a look at friendship and self-esteem and character – all with magical undertones that stretch into our world. And the story of a generations-long bargain made with the Fae.

This is a worthy successor to Impossible

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