Thursday, September 2, 2010

When Extraordinary is Nothing More than Ordinary

Extraordinary, according to Dictionary.com, means beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established; exceptional in character, amount, extent, degree, noteworthy, remarkable. To be extraordinary something must stand out, it must be notable, beyond compare, and it must be, well… extraordinary.

Nancy Werlin’s book Impossible was an original, mesmerizing, and edgy faerie tale. It was a book that hooked me with its unique storyline and captivated me with its engaging, earnest characters. I always enjoy an edgy read, combine that with some form of the paranormal and I’m usually hooked, hence my fandom for a series like Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely. So, when handed a copy of Werlin’s soon to be released Extraordinary I was rather excited to see what inventive characters and thrilling new storyline she had come up with next.

Extraordinary it was not.

I say this with sadness because I really wanted to like this book. I loved Impossible and when I am keen on an author I always anticipate reading him/her again. I am a loyal fan, if an author has hooked me once; I tend to be a fan for life (which explains why I still read JD Robb, even though the last several books have been horrendous). So, when I say I really wanted to love Extraordinary, I really wanted to love it. Unfortunately, there was not much in this book for me to enjoy.

Let me start with what I did like about Extraordinary, before I dissect it negatively. I thought the message, which finally makes itself clear toward the end, in a rather banal way, was quite wonderful. This message is best encapsulated here in the following two quotes:

…perhaps—rare though truly extraordinary may be—there is no such thing as simply ordinary. Or perhaps there is always the capability of becoming extraordinary, buried inside any ordinary being.(pg. 373)

Is being…extraordinary—maybe it’s not about being that way all the time, every minute of life? Because that’s not really possible…But maybe it’s about learning that you have something deep inside that you can reach for when you really need it. Strength. Strength that helps you do whatever it is you need to do, when you need to do it.(pgs. 388-389)

I liked this idea that everyone has the capability of being extraordinary, the ability is there, and all you have to do is reach for it. Considering that this book was written specifically for teens and young adults, this message is rather endearing as it is during this age that many suffer from feelings of inadequacy, or as put in this book, ordinariness, when all anyone really wants to be is more than ordinary.

I also liked the main concept of this book, in which a single girl can make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save not only a loved one, but also an entire race. That she is put in that situation because of an ancient pact between an ancestor and the Queen of Faerie adds to the uniqueness, while also appealing to the paranormal fiction explosion that has taken over the world.

Here is what was wrong with this book. It’s predictable. I pretty much was able to anticipate every scene before it occurred. I don’t mind that on a small scale, after all it is usually fun to figure out who the murder is before the detective, but not when you figure out the entire plot, twists and all. The characters are generally unappealing until literally the last twenty pages, far too late for my tastes.

My main issue with Extraordinary is with Werlin’s attempt to tie-in the subject of anti-Semitism. Every so often the main character Phoebe jumps to the conclusion that some statement or action made by other characters is anti-Semitic or racist. I have no problem with this if there are genuine references to create these feelings in the character, but pages later Werlin contradicts the character’s claims through the voice of a different character. If this happened once I could push it aside, but this happens throughout the book. At one point Phoebe even attempts to draw a connection between the dying faeries and the Jews during the Holocaust. This is Werlin trying way too hard to connect this story in some way to the horrors of the past. Using the fae as an allegory for the Jewish race is an interesting idea, but Werlin does it in such a spotty way that it just seems like too far a stretch and in actuality becomes an annoyance instead of—what I assume she meant to do—enlightenment. This theme is spread so thinly across this novel, yet when it does hit the reader it hits with the finesse of a drunk and blind boxer, wobbly and way off course.

While Extraordinary is anything but, please do take the time to check out Impossible. It is worth a read and I promise it will produce far more entertainment than this sadly mediocre new book.