Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
HarperTeen, January 4, 2011
In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart. (courtesy of Goodreads)
It's nice to find books that shoot down my own idea that I don't like angel books. Unearthly is a great demonstration of how an angel paranormal can be done well. It's also another example of why I prefer paranormals told from the perspective of a supernatural character.
The angel mythology in Unearthly is complex, but presented in such a manner that it was easily understood. Since Clara is part angel, we begin learning about angel mythology from the book's first pages. We learn that angels have a purpose - to save or help a human. We also learn that they are unearthly beautiful, strong, and smart. Angels can procreate. Angels can be good or bad. Angels, or at least part angels, are a lot more common than you'd expect. The angel mythology was different from what I've read in previous angel books. I liked that it was explained clearly and matter-of-factly. Sometimes, angel mythology is so shrouded in mystery that I feel like the author is trying to hard to create a sexy, eerie atmosphere. Cynthia Hand managed to create a romantic, suspenseful story that could hold its own with the paranormal element.
Clara is mostly a typical teen. She's only known she was part angel for a few years, but it seems like it's just part of her life - no big deal. Sure everything comes easy for her and she uproots her life as soon as she learns of her promise, but that's just the way things go. Clara's experience follows that of most new students. She makes some good friends, a mean girl enemy, and meets both cute and frustrating guys. The school situation is pretty par for the course for YA. I'm rather tired of reading about nice girls getting targeted by the school's prettiest and most popular girl in every novel that I read. It's not such a ubiquitous experience for teens that every novel needs to include such a plot arc. That aside, I really loved Clara's girlfriends Wendy and Angela. Angela is arguably more important to the story, but she got on my nerves a little. I especially loved Wendy. She was so normal, welcoming, and nice.
The guy situation is much more interesting than I would have expected. You have jerky, cute Tucker and sweet, enigmatic Christian. I love how the plot included a love triangle that wasn't exactly so. A bit of a twist on an over-used plot arc.
I only have two significant criticisms of the book. First is that I felt like I had to suspend belief at times - there were just a few too many coincidences. An ideal paranormal book is one where you really forget that the supernatural elements don't actually exist, and I could easily remember that this was a made-up fantasy world. I also thought that several significant pieces of information were left unresolved in this book. Of course, this sets things up for sequels, but I prefer feeling like each book in a series can sort-of stand on its own, with the exception of cliff-hangers.
All in all, a fun series and an angel paranormal that I actually enjoyed.
Rating: 4 / 5