Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

I want to thank Netgalley and HarperTeen Books for the early look at Cynthia Hand’s debut novel, Unearthly.

Can I give this book more than 5 stars? I have read over a hundred books in 2010 and while this book doesn’t really come out until 2011, I find I have to rearrange my top 5 favorite books for 2010 and start a new list for 2011. Unearthly is in the top five for 2010 as well as the top two for 2011.

Clara is a sixteen year old girl living in California with her mother and brother. Well that’s not all of course. Clara found out two years ago that she is part angel. Her mother is half angel and her father is human. But she seems normal enough to everyone around her. She does have an easier time of things than most teens. She’s smarter, stronger, and things come easy for her. She has beautiful blond hair and of course she is pretty, angelically pretty. Things can’t continue like this and make a very interesting book though. Clara’s life changes when she has the first vision of her purpose. She sees a boy standing in a wood. There’s a fire and she walks up behind him. He starts to turn and that’s it. She doesn’t see his face. But it’s enough for her mom to know it’s time for Clara to fulfill her purpose, the reason she has for being here. It’s not just a dream after all the vision happens while Clara is very much awake. So they pack up and move to Jackson Hole Wyoming where Clara is pretty sure the forest she saw is located. Clara finds him the first day of school after winter break but he is very much spoken for. What will Clara do? Is she supposed to save him from the fire, be in the right place at the right time? She certainly has feelings for him but he has a girlfriend. It’s very confusing for Clara as she tries to fit into a new school after living in California her whole life. She struggles to find friend and even be pretty anymore. The vision comes again and again, giving clues but Clara is frustrated and tries to be normal. That’s when things get interesting.

The characters in this book are very well developed. The time that goes by in this book is not fast. It covers an eight month period of time, almost all of it in Wyoming. The friendships that Clara develops are genuine and complex. The book doesn’t cling to the main story but using intertwining subplots to develop real friendships. I was amazed at how much every little thing that happens in the story is important to developing the relationships. Wendy is Clara’s first friend in town but they go through some struggles that create bonds between them. Wendy cares for Clara. Another very important friendship develops and it has to have some growth as well. Clara’s bother, Jeffery, and her mother also have deep relationships with her. What I’m trying to say here, is that we don’t just jump into Clara’s life and the author tells us she has these relationships but she shows us these relationships. Of course there has to be the love interests as well. There is a love triangle but it is done is very different way. There isn’t the twilight thing where it seems clear who gets the girl. It isn’t an immediate thing where she is drawn to two different boys and is confused. No, their relationships are developed through experiences that reveal a lot about all three of them. I can’t say which team I am on because I feel like it’s a spoiler. For now, I will say that my heart was breaking at one point for the one whose team I am on.

As far as the paranormal aspects of the book, it was well done. There are so many young adult paranormal books available right now. Many of them are stereotypical and predictable, this one is not. I liked the angel aspects of the book. The author reveals things as needed for us as well as for Clara. I ended up really liking that style. Cynthia Hand does set us into a story and lets us catch up as we go. Clara knows more than we do at first but then she is learning with us. It made it less overwhelming, learning about this beautiful world of angel bloods.

I should learn to never read a book until the whole series is available but I never learn that lesson. Here I am having read book one before it is even available to buy and I already want to read book two. I can’t wait to see what happens for Clara, for Christian and Tucker, for Clara’s Mom and brother, and for Clara’s friends. I won’t tell you how much is settled in this book and what there is left to figure out but I can say that the author does a good job of ending the novel while leaving you hungry for more.

Unearthly is available January 4, 2011. You will definitely want to spend some of those holiday gift cards to get this one. I now have a new favorite author to follow.

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