Thursday, January 20, 2011

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
HarperTeen, January 4, 2011

Summary

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)

Review

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

Source: NetGalley

20 comments :

  1. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed Unearthly. I am not a fan of angel fiction but I'm planning to read this after reading all the positive reviews. I think I was disappointed by books like Hush, Hush.

    I am tired of some of those cliched situations that are so often found in YA fiction these days. I guess publishers and writers keep encouraging it because they feel that it is a formula that works but it is overdone, particularly the new girl angle.

    Great detailed review! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  2. I can't wait to read this one !! I'll receive it on Saturday, I think !! Thanks for your review =)

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  4. I really enjoyed this book, especially the angel mythology and twists and turns the novel took me on. I agree with you though, too many questions left unanswered in the end and now a whole entire YEAR before the next book comes out - sigh.

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  5. This one is in the mail for me right now. I'm curious. I was afraid it was going to be more of the same old annoying stereotypes, but it sounds like it's different. I'm a little hesitant about the unresolved ending, but I think I'll give it a try now. I enjoyed reading your review.

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  6. Fabulous review Alison, I'm so glad you enjoyed this one as well. I just adored Clara, and Tucker was just too cute for words. His cocky sarcasm had me giggling like a little girl and as though he was actually awkwardly flirting with me instead of Clara:) Can't wait to read more of this story!

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  7. Great review! Thanks! I'm looking forward to it and the cover is just so pretty huh? :)

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  8. Thank you for the review. I avoid angel books as well but I will read this one.
    NC
    Truly Bookish

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  9. I really enjoyed this book too. After reading a couple of Angel books I got weary of reading anymore. I thought they just weren't for me until I read Unearthly. I loved the fact that Clara knew who she was before the novel began. I feel like in most paranormal books we spend half of the first book in the series figuring this out. I also loved Tucker! I think Hand did a great job on the characters especially all the supporting characters. They were so much fun.

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  10. I have been burned by an angel book in the past so I'm relieved that you thought this was well done for an angel book. I especially like the mythology you described!

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  11. I was so pleasantly surprised at how the romance turned out!
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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  12. I find that coincidences are kind of a habit in YA literature these days, to be honest. I also feel like things fall into place far too easily at times. This book, however, seems to get amazing reviews everywhere I look! Great review, Alison - as always, love the honesty :)

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  13. I think every review I've read of this said the same thing (including mine): better than expected, best angel book out there.

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  14. I enjoyed this one too. Great review. Love the honesty!

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  15. Yes! Angel mythology presented in a better light. Complex yet developed thoroughly. This is exactly what I've been looking for.

    I haven't read Unearthly yet, now I really want to.

    Coincidence thing bother me too, but I'm come to terms with it, and I feel the same about the stand alone thing.

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  16. I loved this one. It's one of my favourite books of the last while. Then again, I tend to like angel books, and I also like love triangles when they are done well. This one is great!

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  17. I was groaning over angel books when I picked this up...and was pleasantly surprised too! I think it's that "jerky, cute" Tucker who did me in ;)

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  18. Yay! I love angel books so the fact that you enjoyed Unearthly even though you don't really like angel books is a good sign. I'm still waiting for my copy of Unearthly to arrive and am looking forward to reading it.

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  19. What a lovely review!! I cant wait to get my hands on this one..:D I heard the cover is even more pretty in person.

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  20. thanks for sharing your thoughts, alison! its good to know im not the only one that's unhappy with the ending.... but pverall this was a cute read :)

    Diana

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