Review: Unearthly

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: UnearthlyUnearthly by Cynthia Hand
Series: Unearthly #1
Published by HarperTeen on January 4, 2011
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 435
Format: eARC
Source: 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 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.

Despite having read and been disappointed by a number of these paranormal series books, I still get really excited for every single one. Unearthly was no exception, except in the sense that this one proved not to be disappointing. Although this may not be a book I actually add to my personal library, I did love almost every minute of reading it and figuratively cannot wait for the next in the series.

Angel books can be really awful, even in the context of how bad some of the teen paranormal romances can be. When you bring in the whole pesky religion business, which is somewhat unavoidable with the whole angel thing, a story can go from fun to preachy in less time than it takes to cross yourself. Hand does a good job with this delicate subject: she does not ignore the issue, but nor does she dwell on it. The book feels like fantasy not like an allegory or disguised lecture on the one true god. Maybe she’s got an agenda with her angel story, but I don’t think so.

One of the things I appreciate about Unearthly, which falls into the realm of spoilers is that, even though there is a super perfect guy, she does not go for him. The boy in her purpose, Christian (for serious, she went there) is the super sexy guy with no faults who is dating the hot bitchy girl. She describes initial encounters with him thus: “And so far in the span of two weeks, the stars align exactly three times and he ends up in the desk next to mine. I smile and say hello. He smiles back and says hi. For a moment, an undeniable force seems to draw us together like magnets. But then he opens his notebook or checks his cell phone under his desk, signifying that our Nice weather we’re having chitchat is over.” It begins in a barf-worthy place, but then goes to a more realistic, this-magic-emotion-is-all-in-her-head-place. In another story, Personal Demons for example, he would feel drawn to her and she to him and no obstacle could possibly stand in the way of their monumental and immediate love. I really appreciate that Hand did not go that route, at least not yet. Just because the guy is a dreamboat and perceived as perfect (or even is perfect) that does not mean that he is perfect for the heroine.

The other thing I loved a whole lot were the pop culture references weaved in. The one that sold me was the nickname given to the main character by the guy that was not Christian. That is a reference (and hopefully an intentional one) to Anne of Green Gables, which made me, from first use of the nickname, root for that guy wholeheartedly. Her chapter titles are also frequently references, such as “My Purpose-Driven Life” (I burst out laughing reading that one). The song from the post’s title is also referenced. For me, pop culture references = win, both because I love pop culture and because it’s good not to take oneself or one’s story too seriously.

Paranormal YA fans, find yourselves a copy of this one as soon as it’s published and get a-reading!

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