Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Series: Unearthly #1
Summary: At age fourteen, Clare Gardner learned she was part angel. Now, a few years later, she is beginning to discover what her purpose is. Visions of a boy in a forest fire lead her family to Wyoming, where Clare hopes to befriend the boy and train so she can save him. The other kids at her high school, however, are not entirely willing to accept her—except for one, who might be more of a distraction to Clare than a help.
Review: Unearthly is the best paranormal romance I have read. Clara is an almost perfect protagonist. Being partially dorky but also pretty and a little bit popular makes her real and relateable. She has teenage problems and sometimes freaks out, but does so without being annoying. She is not quite a kick-ass heroine, but she is strong in her own quiet, steady way, and it is very inspiring.
Of course, Clara is not just a normal teenager—she is also part angel. Hand portrays the paranormal mix in Clara well, as she feels drawn to her purpose and strives to be a good person so her wings can stay white, but she is not perfect and not at all preachy. Being angelic is almost something she is supposed to achieve with effort and respect, not something that was thrust upon her so she is just cooler than all humans. The concept of full angels is presented equally well. They come across as strong and pure without seeming ridiculous or impossible, strong without seeming only supernatural and not divine. Hand has captured the essence of her paranormal creatures in skilled, beautiful, and knowledgeable way that few other authors can claim.
The romance is also a very strong aspect of the book. There is no “instalove” to be found here. Sometimes there is a love triangle, but sometimes there is not. Basically, Clara is drawn to different characteristics in different boys, just as any teenager could be, so the triangle seems like a real and plausible occurrence, not something the author forced upon readers for more “excitement.” The love between Clara and the boy she finally chooses grows naturally and slowly, and when they finally come together the moment is truly beautiful. As a bonus, Clara is able to experience it in a unique way because she is part angel. More such moments are sure to come in the sequel.
The plot also will continue because (miracle!) there is a valid plot in Unearthly. Clara is supposed to puzzle out what her purpose on Earth is, and then train so she can fulfill it. In addition to the fact that this is simply a lovely thought, the concept is very engaging. Watching Clara trying to figure it out is a bit like watching a mystery unfold—full of suspense with just a touch of action and maybe some more romance on the side. Some logic seems to fail other characters when it comes to Clara’s purpose (Apparently if she does anything else except meditate on her purpose she is utterly doomed to failure!), but it was not a major flaw. And by the end of the book just enough questions are left open to keep readers wishing for Hallowed without leaving them completely baffled or dead from too much suspense.
Anyone looking for a romance with beauty and substance instead of characters kissing each other just because they can will want to pick up Unearthly soon.
Published: January 2011
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