3.7 37
by Nancy Werlin

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Phoebe finds herself drawn to Mallory, the strange new girl in school, and the two soon become as close as sisters. Then Mallory's magnetic older brother, Ryland, shows up during their junior year. Ryland has an immediate hold on Phoebe - but a dangerous hold, for she begins to question her feelings about her best friend and, worse, about herself. Soon Phoebe

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Phoebe finds herself drawn to Mallory, the strange new girl in school, and the two soon become as close as sisters. Then Mallory's magnetic older brother, Ryland, shows up during their junior year. Ryland has an immediate hold on Phoebe - but a dangerous hold, for she begins to question her feelings about her best friend and, worse, about herself. Soon Phoebe discovers the shocking truth about Ryland and Mallory: that they are from the faerie realm, here to collect on an age-old debt. And the price of that debt could cost Phoebe everything. But with the help of her friend Ben, Phoebe ultimately learns her own worth and breaks the generations-old curse.

"Werlin crafts her characters so deftly and unrolls the story so cleverly . . . readers will be under the spell to the end." - Booklist

"A compelling tale of friendship and a refreshing antidote to faerie stories about that one special girl deserving of supernatural love." - Kirkus Reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Phoebe Rothschild is a descendant of Mayer Rothschild, the 18th-century founder of a banking dynasty. In seventh grade, she befriends Mallory, and the two become close as sisters. But Mallory has a secret: she is a faerie, and her mission is to sabotage Phoebe’s self-worth. Mallory is unable to get the job done, so years later her handsome brother, Ryland, arrives and uses glamour to get Phoebe to fall for him. The plot rests, shakily, on backstory about a bargain Mayer Rothschild struck with the faerie queen two centuries earlier: she would give him five extraordinary sons in exchange for one ordinary female heir to be sacrificed to the faerie kingdom. The passages in which Ryland verbally attacks the stout, plain Phoebe are painful reading: “There’s just something really wrong with you,” Ryland tells her. “Phoebe had been absolutely naked when he’d said this.” Though Werlin (Impossible) raises interesting questions about honesty, love, and what it truly means to be “extraordinary,” those topics get lost amid the slow pace and dialogue that sacrifices realism for emotional heft. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
New student Mallory is unlike anyone seventh-grader Phoebe has ever known. She seems mysterious, she acts strange, and she dresses haphazardly. Phoebe feels compelled to help. In an impulsive move, she reaches out to the newcomer and the two become fast friends. Only-child Phoebe suddenly has the "sister" she's always wanted. Four years pass. Mallory continues to hide the fact that she is a Faerie who has entered Phoebe's life for a purpose: to remove Phoebe's sense of self-worth and convince her that she is just an ordinary girl. If Mallory fails at her task, the Faerie world she left behind will perish. In her absence, the Faerie world has been degrading. Time is of the essence and so the Faerie Queen sends Mallory's brother Ryland to succeed where Mallory has failed. The risk to Phoebe and her parents is almost palpable, for Ryland is a no-holds-barred fully committed to his destructive task. Why are the Faeries after Phoebe? Generations ago, her ancestor struck a bargain. In exchange for five extraordinary sons, the Faerie folk could have one ordinary female heir as a human sacrifice. The family line has produced no one meeting that criteria, and the Faerie world has been deteriorating as its magic dwindled. Now, the Faeries have decided to force the issue, create a sense of "ordinariness" in an heir, and take their sacrifice. Or will they? This emotionally wrought novel evokes the sense of an extended, modern Grimm tale. Werlin's evocative text will draw in many readers. Teachers and children's librarians should be aware that the book does include some sexual content. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
VOYA - Courtney Huse Wika
Phoebe is a privileged child, the daughter of the powerful and wealthy Catherine Rothschild and descendent of the great businessman Mayer Rothschild. With her heritage, she certainly belongs in the popular clique at school, which is why no one can fathom why she befriends the peculiar and socially-awkward new girl, Mallory Tolliver. Despite their differences, their friendship soon blossoms into a sisterly bond, with Phoebe's family helping to care for Mallory and her ill mother. Something is not quite right with Mallory, however, and this mysteriousness is compounded when her previously unheard-of older brother, Ryland, surfaces. Phoebe is dangerously drawn to him, despite his mistreatment of her. When Mallory ends the friendship, Phoebe, vulnerable and heartbroken, is left with only Ryland to turn to, but the worst is yet to come, for Mallory and Ryland are drawing Phoebe into a terrible trap, one from which she may not be able to escape. This novel is wrought with tension and suspense, and keeps readers guessing until the end. Phoebe and Mallory's friendship is well-developed, and both are believable, dynamic characters; however, the relationship between Ryland and Phoebe is an uncomfortable one, as it often crosses the line into mental and emotional abuse. These passages are difficult to read, especially since this aspect is not completely resolved by the end of the novel. Phoebe's willingness to let Ryland influence her self-perception and decimate her confidence will frustrate some readers, though most will still find the novel and its fae mythology intriguing. Reviewer: Courtney Huse Wika
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Phoebe Rothschild meets Mallory Tolliver when they are in seventh grade. Mallory, a pariah among the popular set, is saved by Phoebe, who rejects the clique and embraces the new girl as her best friend. Four years later, when the girls are juniors in high school, Mallory reveals the existence of her half-brother, Ryland, who is 24 and irresistible. He is one of the fey, as is Mallory, and he uses fairy glamour for diabolical ends; dialogues between the Faerie Queen and Mallory and the Faerie Queen and Ryland reveal that the fey have deadly plans for the unsuspecting Phoebe. Ryland informs the Queen that Phoebe will be easy to seduce but Phoebe, even though bound by magic, still manages to resist submitting fully. Real-world conversations and settings are distinctly rendered, as are Phoebe's glimpses of Faerie, and although the intermittent dialogues with the Faerie Queen sometimes feel stilted, they provide critical backstory. The denouement flounders ever so slightly in overexplanation, but the carefully nuanced, often sensual prose delivers a highly effective narrative. Characterizations are arresting and complex: Phoebe, thoughtful and loyal, is bravely compassionate; Mallory, divided and determined, elicits reluctant sympathy; and Ryland, controlling and manipulative, is scarily realistic. Werlin's intricately constructed plot combines fairy lore, family history, and coming of age in an engrossing, often suspenseful story that moves smoothly to its inevitable end. Phoebe's intellectual and emotional transformation from ordinary to extraordinary is of her own volition, which makes her the compelling force of this bittersweet fairy tale.—Janice M. Del Negro, GSLIS Dominican University, River Forest, IL
Kirkus Reviews
Phoebe Rothschild—yes, of those Rothschilds—dumps her toxic friends for new girl Mallory in seventh grade. After four years of best friendship, Mallory is gorgeous and stylish—and, unbeknownst to Phoebe, she's also not human. In brief snippets between chapters, readers learn that Mallory has been sent by the faerie queene to manipulate Phoebe for some dark purpose. When Mallory fails (or refuses) to bring Phoebe into line, the faeries send Mallory's brother Ryland, who glamours Phoebe into dazed, romantic compliance. This is no typical paranormal romance: Phoebe's conviction of Ryland's shimmering worth and her belief that she is unworthy are portrayed as uncannily dreadful. This proudly Jewish fantasy offers a compelling tale of friendship and a refreshing antidote to faerie stories about that one special girl deserving of supernatural love. Beguiling as it is, though, this modern fairy tale isn't quite up to the standards of Werlin's thrillers and darker fare. Can we enjoy this while hoping future fantastic outings share the taut construction of The Killer's Cousin (1998), Double Helix (2004) and The Rules of Survival (2006)? (Fantasy. YA)

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Nancy Werlin writes YA fiction that ranges from realistic fiction to suspense to fantasy, often breaking the boundaries between genres. Her books have gathered awards too numerous to mention, but including National Book award finalist, Edgar award winner and finalist, New York Times bestseller, L.A. Book Prize finalist, and IndieBound Top Ten. Nancy's first novel, Are You Alone on Purpose, was a Publishers Weekly Flying Start pick.
Of Nancy's suspense fiction, Sarah Weinman says, "Chances are, many of you haven't heard of this author. That would be a shame, because she's simply one of the best crime novelists going right now. Period." These titles are where Nancy habitually breaks genre-separation rules and include The Rules of Survival (a National Book Award finalist), The Killer's Cousin (Edgar award winner), Locked Inside (Edgar award nominee), Black Mirror (which the Washington Post called "an edge-of-your seat thriller"), and Double Helix (named to multiple best-of-year book lists). 
Nancy's unusual fantasy fiction was inspired by the ballad Scarborough Fair and includes the loose trilogy Impossible (a New York Times bestseller), Extraordinary (featuring a rare thing in fantasy fiction: a Jewish heroine), and her personal beloved, Unthinkable. 
For fun, Nancy also writes and draws a graphic memoir in comics, using her Tumblr to self-publish an episode three times a week. 
Her favorite book in all the world is Jane Eyre. 
A graduate of Yale, Nancy lives near Boston, Massachusetts with her husband.

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