Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin
August 8, 2011 in High School Teachers, Journal Writing, Journal Writing, Middle School Teachers, Werlin Nancy, Writing Skills, Young Adult Novels Tags: Nancy Werlin, self-esteem books, young adult fantasy novels
*Young adult, contemporary fantasy
*Teenage girl as main character
*Rating: I thought the plot in Extraordinary really moved the book along and kept me reading until the end. I listened to the audio book and sometimes the character of Phoebe was whiny–but that could have just been “listening” instead of “reading.” All in all, I liked this book–I like books about the fey though!
Short, short summary: In seventh grade, Phoebe Rothschild and Mallory Tolliver become best friends. Phoebe likes Mallory because she’s new and different, and Phoebe’s ready to break away from her mean girls clique. But Mallory likes Phoebe because she has to–she is being ordered by the Faerie Queen to befriend Phoebe. They need Phoebe to right some wrong from the past, and you don’t really find out what this wrong actually is until the last third of the book. Mallory starts to like Phoebe and cares for the woman that is “her mother”, so the Queen sends in reinforcements–Mallory’s older, scary, and handsome brother, Ryland, who uses his seductive charm to woo Phoebe, now a junior in high school, and manipulate her into what the faeries need her to do. The way Werlin reveals this plot is interesting–including conversations between Ryland, Mallory, and the Queen. All sorts of teenage problems pop up in this book, too, during the storyline such as premarital sex, peer pressure, self-esteem, and so on. It’s a good read–teens will probably like it.
So what do I do with this book?
1. Without revealing too much about the plot, I will tell you there’s a big deal between being ordinary and extraordinary in this novel. It has a lot to do with self-esteem and knowing whom you are. Teenagers often have trouble with this, and Werlin captures their doubt issues well. Ask students to write about how they are extraordinary. What do they think about Phoebe’s explanation of ordinary, extraordinary in the novel? What do they think about the deal made with the Queen in the past? This can be several journal entries and/or class/group/homeschool discussions.
2. Do students like how Werlin included the conversations with the Queen? Why did she use this device? What did they think about the pacing of the novel? Did those scenes out of Phoebe’s POV help move the plot along? Why didn’t she stay in Phoebe’s POV the whole time?
3. World-building in fantasy novels is very important. You may have several students (or your own teens) who write fantasy. Talk about Werlin’s world and how she built it. How can students learn from her and build their own worlds?