Phoebe Rothschild is a slightly awkward girl, friends with the popular girls but not sure she wants to be, confident in her family—especially her millionaire super-successful mother—but not always in herself. You might go so far as to call her ordinary. Still, it takes courage to dump your clique and befriend the new, awkward girl in school, who’s wearing all the wrong clothes and projecting an attitude of pride and disdain—and that’s what Phoebe does.

Several years later, Mallory’s brother appears in Phoebe’s life, just as unexpectedly as Mallory had. And Ryland not only pushes Phobe and Mallory apart, he causes Phoebe to question everything—her world, her sanity, herself.

It’s fantasy, by the way. Interspersed with chapters of Phoebe’s life in Boston are conversations with the faerie queen, and eventually excursions into the realm of Faerie. The conversations are stilted and initially distracting, couched in formal language, a sharp contrast with the smooth, captivating writing of the real-world narration. Still, they serve a purpose: we need to know that all is not right in the realm of faerie.

The core of the book is Phoebe’s relationship with Ryland. The destructive, emotionally abusive relationship. It is plausible, realistic, and sickening as he takes this young woman and tears her down, bit by bit. Ryland is hateful, but the conversations with his queen remind us that he is doing this because he thinks it is necessary. That doesn’t soften the blow of his manipulation and abuse, but it muddies the waters and in many ways makes the book harder to read: we can’t just dismiss Ryland as unadulterated evil.

There’s family history at work, too, in the way characters must deal with our legacies: inherited money, taught beliefs, ancestral support and demands. Phoebe is Jewish—of the secular, not-particularly-theistic variety—and her relationship with her Judaism is dealt with quite well: rarely on her mind, but deeply important when it comes up.

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Extraordinary ~ Nancy Werlin
My review of Nancy Werlin’s Impossible

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Bones of FaeriePost-Apocalyptic fiction meets Faeries.

Twenty years after the cataclysmic war between the faeries and the humans, Liza’s sister is born with hair clear as glass and is left on the hillside to die, for clear hair is a sure sign of magic and magic isn’t to be trusted. Her mother, near-mad with grief, leaves shortly thereafter. When Liza starts seeing visions in anything reflective, she, too, leaves; though the trees and their shadows can kill, her abusive father would also kill her if he learned she showed any signs of magic.

It’s a short, simple book that really could have been longer and more complex. The post-faerie-apocalypse world is interesting and vivid, described naturally and in rich detail. Liza’s relationship with her father and actions toward others gently touch upon the psychology and patterns of abuse, but, like most of the minor characters, her father is generally two-dimensional. The pacing felt off to me; whenever minor characters are involved, it seems to rush to get Liza back on the road with maybe a companion or two. Which is doubly frustrating; not only does it feel rushed, these are often characters who lived through the war. They’re given just enough time that we can glimpse their lingering reactions to what they did and saw, but not enough to explore the complexities I could see lurking beyond the surface.

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Bones of Faerie ~ Janni Lee Simner ~ Desert Dispatches, Janni Lee Simner’s Blog
Invasive Species, a short story set in the world of Bones of Faerie