Saturday, May 12, 2012

Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

Although Extraordinary, by Nancy Werlin, isn't directly a fairy tale retelling, it definitely draws heavily on fairy tale motifs and concepts.  Phoebe is a rather ordinary girl from a family of remarkable people.  She becomes close friends with a girl named Mallory, who has a dark agenda from another world.  Mallory, though, is drawn to Phoebe as well, and delays in her task.

Mallory, as we-the-readers quickly discover, is from the faerie realm, and her people are sick and dying.  Years pass as she grows closer to Phoebe, until her people send Ryland to finish Mallory's task -- and to destroy Phoebe.

This book works well on the top level, as a fairy tale about friendship and loyalty.  It also works well as a metaphor for emotionally abusive relationships.  Phoebe is drawn to Ryland and he builds a terrible trap for her: sweet and warm at first, and then slowly tearing her apart with carefully cruel words.

I was gritting my teeth in frustration and anger as I read this book -- Ryland was so.  Freakin.  Evil.  And yet he's set up as justified in the story -- he's trying to save his people, after all.  Although his behavoir isn't directly considered acceptable in the story, I feel pretty ambiguous about the justification that's built into the story.

In the end the characters do find another solution, and Ryland's behavoir, while tolerated by his faerie folk, is not applauded.  And I do think that Phoebe's eventual confidence in herself is what makes the book work.  My main concern with the book is that there would ever be any reason for such behavoir to be justified.

If you can read this book on the literal level, it is a good story and I will say that in the end, love does triumph (although not romantically, which I have to say is a refreshing twist).  I do hesitate to give it a full endorsement because of that justification, but it does give a good starting point for discussion on abusive relationships.

No comments:

Post a Comment