Author: Cynthia Hand
Series: Unearthly #1
Release Date: January 4th, 2011
Pages: 488 (Hardcover)
To Buy: Amazon.com
Obtained From: NetGalley
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 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 though 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?
Wow. Just...wow. Have you ever read a book that resonates with you so well that even after you finish it, you're thinking about it for days after? That's what Unearthly did for me. I loved everything about this book, especially the things I expected not to, and even though I finished it days ago, I'm still thinking about it.
Since dark/brooding angel books are trendy right now, I expected Unearthly to follow the same sort of 'broody-angel-comes-to-earth-to-fight-evil' kind of plot. But Unearthly turned out to be more of a coming of age novel than anything. In fact, the angel aspect almost seemed low-key, since it's part of Clara's every day life. I loved the fact that when the book started she already knew that she was an angel, and it was nice to see a character in her position that wasn't a godmodder. Hand manages to balance Clara's "purpose" problems with the the issues that every teenager faces in school, giving us a panoramic view of her personality. And boy, is she likeable. Clara's got a touch of humor, a touch of common sense, a touch of adventure, a touch of fear, a touch of loyalty, a touch of love, a touch of arrogance...can you see where I'm going with this? She was just a wonderfully balanced character and it was fun watching her strengthen her powers and mature throughout the novel.
In addition, Clara had great relationships with the people around her. She adores her family, has a good time with her two best friends, and the romance that she finds herself in was logical and earned. I guess this is a bit of a spoiler, but Cynthia really takes the time to let the reader get to know Tucker, and he turns out to be the kind of guy you want Clara to end up with. He's kind, funny, sarcastic, tough, and compliments her personality nicely, even though Christian is literally the boy of her dreams. The dynamics between the three of them were very realistic, and I believed I was watching high schoolers deal with their relationship problems as real high schoolers would.
The concept of God and religion in this book also intrigued me. Though they are present throughout the story, unlike other angel novels out there Unearthly manages to deal with them without shoving them in your face. In fact, the characters often question their purpose on earth and Gods' rules, which ultimately becomes the main conflict in Clara's life. Can she disobey? The answer is...well, you'll just have to read the book to find out! But their questions are ones that many of us in life also have, which just added another interesting and realistic dimension to the characters in this novel.
Overall, Unearthly was an amazing book that questions the rules of fate and love in a great blend of realism and fantasy. There were many twists in the plot I didn't see coming, and that made for not only a touching read, but an exciting one as well. Really, I was sad to realize that I had reached the last page when I did. Though it concludes with a bang, it sort of ends with an "oh shi--now what?" cliffhanger. Though I was fortunate enough to receive a digital ARC of this book, I'm going to have to pick up a physical copy if it when it hits the shelves. It'll be one that I'm going to reread for years to come, and I look forward to the next book in the series!