Sue Reviews: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Posted July 15, 2012 by Sue Miller in / 3 Comments

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Title: Unearthly
Series: Unearthly #1
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Paperpack, 464 pages
Published: January 4, 2011
ISBN #: 9780061996177 / 0061996173
Genre: Young Adult
My Copy: bought
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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.

I started Unearthly quite a few months ago and read the first couple of chapters and then set it aside. I found the protagonist, Clara to be too childish. The interaction between her and her mother seemed really juvenile to me and the first few chapters don’t quite flow together. Unread books are like an invisible and unrelenting, nagging finger in my subconscious, poking and reminding me, “it’s unfinished!” So I vowed to read this on my vacation last week. I’m so glad I read it, and so disappointed in myself for not having pushed through the minor blip in the first chapters.

Unearthly turned out to be such a pleasant, enjoyable read. And while it is YA it’s not juvenile at all!

There is the YA predictable formula in this book. You know the one: girl moves to a new small town, girl is a bit of an outsider, a couple of students take an interest in the new girl and become her friends, cute boys abound, love triangle ensues etc. I don’t mind formula plots. This story is not hard to follow and has a predictability to it with some infused surprises from the author. The pacing works.

While this is a story about angels, the real story is about Clara finding herself and contextualizing herself with in her family, school and her angelic purpose. Big points when reading this book – I don’t think I rolled my eyes once! It was a very believable teenage read.

What made this book come alive for me were the characters. Clara shapes into a lovely, complex character by the end of the book. Cynthia Hand does a great job at layering her characters slowly and richly, that by the end of the book I really felt like I knew all of the main players. Without giving too much away, Hand presents the two boys that will become important to Clara in a realistic way.

Each character, Christian and Tucker, are flawed in different ways and they each make their share of bad decisions. Hand develops these characters so well that she is able to redeem them to the reader. I really enjoyed the angst ridden ride we take with Clara. The book is written in the first person which allows the reader to get a grip on the feelings she struggles with. There is a lot of internal reflection which allows the reader to understand Clara and her decisions.

Hand’s descriptions are wonderful. She describes, glory and angel wings just as I would imagine them: beautiful and luminescent. In the second part of the book Clara reconnects with nature and Hand places the reader right there with her protagonist, seeing, breathing and tasting the outdoors.

The supporting cast of friends are typical but not cliched. Each one has a presence that supports Clara in their own way. Although there are many supernatural aspects to this book, I found that there is a realistic teenage vibe to her everyday routine. This was balanced nicely.

Very poignant is the relationship with her mother. Clara reveres her, yet doubts her. All the complexities of a mother – daughter relationship are present in this novel. Being angels does not preclude them from the real life dramas all parents and teenagers go through, including the repercussions of an absentee father.

This book is not overly religious and describes angels as protectors of goodness but does not delve into Godly explanations. There really isn’t a great deal of explaining except what Clara and her friend find out through their own snooping (I’m not naming her because it is a spoiler!). Her mother is careful not to inundate Clara with unnecessary  information on being an angel. I felt Clara’s frustration on this one. Wouldn’t a mother want to equip her daughter with knowledge?

The book culminates nicely and there is a quasi conclusion that leaves you satisfied but wanting more.

Books in this series:
Unearthly Hallowed

Recommendation: A great coming of age story for Young Adults and angel fans alike.
Like this, like that: The Earth, Fire, Wind and Water series by Darby Karchut and the Angelfire series by Courtney Allison Moulton

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About the Blogger
I review Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance books with a focus all things werewolf. Based out of Ottawa, Canada

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My name is Sue Miller and I live in Toronto, Ontario. I dabble in writing and obsess in reading anything I can, especially fantasy and YA. I spend countless hours on Goodreads, twitter and blog reading. If I fall in love with a book I immediately go to the author’s website and devour details on how he/she writes. I’m also a music junkie and have playlists for all of my favorite books. My guilty pleasure is video games – fantasy of course.

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3 responses to “Sue Reviews: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

  1. I really enjoyed this book. And then there was Tucker! I loved him. The 2nd book I kinda got mad at a lot! GRRRRR. Anyways though, Great Review and I am glad you picked the book back up!

  2. Amber, I reviewed the second book, which will be posted in the coming weeks… and I agree – GRRRRRRR! I went back and forth between Christian and Tucker. Thanks for reading the review!