Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Pages: 435
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: January 4, 2011
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "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?"

Clara Gardner is part angel and every angel on earth has a purpose that they must fulfill.  Clara starts to receive visions about her purpose and realizes that it takes place in Wyoming. Her vision includes a handsome stranger and an engulfing fire.  Clara, her mom and her brother moves to Wyoming, so Clara can fulfill her destiny, because angels take their purposes very seriously.  As Clara adjusts to life in Wyoming, she encounters the stranger from her vision, Christian, who also attends her high school. Christian isn't just any high school boy though; he is elusive, dreamy, and super popular.  Clara tries to befriend him in order to continue with her purpose, but it's a lot harder than it seems, especially with his ice queen girlfriend always around.  There's also another guy, Tucker, who happens to drive her nuts and they are always bantering back and forth, but she can't lose her focus though, because it is her destiny to save Christian. Ultimately, she struggles to decide if she should push what she wants to the side or follow her heart.  Unearthly by Cynthia Hand is a remarkable debut that left me breathless and desperate for more.  

Angels. *sigh*  Who doesn't love the concept?  However, I have read a lot of young adult books with characters who are angels that left me feeling disappointed, but not Unearthly.  Seriously. This novel blew all other YA novels with angels right out of the water.  Hand's angel mythology is brilliant; it's realistic without being corny and crazy religious.  Simply said--it worked very well.

Hand develops this story beautifully. It's delicious. She slowly gets readers engaged and before you know it, you are a desperate mess flipping page after page. It's not all action though, like a lot of fantasy novels out there.  Hand includes a lot of exquisite descriptions that were oh-so-vivid and quotable.  Also, the plot was pretty much perfect;  it never once felt forced, contrived or derivative.  It flowed expertly.  It is very easy to see why Hand teaches creative writing at the university level--she knows what she is doing!

The characters were all well developed.  Clara is a girl-next-door type of character that many can relate to even though she is part angel. She has insecurities, but she is no push-over.  Her relationship with her mom was strong, which I really liked.  I adored the witty banter between Clara and Tucker...what can I say? I am a sucker for that type of thing. Lastly, there is a love triangle in this novel and I don't want to say too much, but it was unexpected at first and not over the top like a lot of love triangles out there in YA.  For the record, I'm team Tucker. 

In sum, Unearthly was addictive.  I was thinking about it when I wasn't reading it, which is a sign of a really outstanding book.  It definitely made my "favorites of 2011" list and I am already waiting for the sequel which comes out in 2012.....I just hope I can wait that long!

*Buy Unearthly
*Watch the book trailer


  1. I love this book so much! It's definitely on my faves of 2011 list too. I can't wait for Hallowed in 2012! Great review! :)

  2. I want to read this so bad! Really, it sounds perfect. Not a lot of action isn't a big problem for me if the story is flowing and good. And from the sound of your review it is.

  3. You are so right. It is delicious! One of the very best angels books ever. FAB FAB review!

  4. Leanna- Thanks! I can't wait for Hallowed either.

    Nina- You definitely need to read this one! It has action, but also excellent description and dialogue. Enjoy it!

    Juju- Thanks! I'm glad you liked it too!

  5. What a fantastic review. I have to admit that I'm quite fed up with Angels in YA fiction, but the raving reviews for this book leave me actually wanting to read Unearthly! Also, Leanna from Daisy Chain Books adored it as well, so I get the feeling that I'd probably love it too :)

  6. I know what you mean about page flipping. Yesterday I had a little over half of the book to go, didn't think I'd finish, yet somehow I devoured that last half of the book. I'm on Team Tucker too!


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