UNEARTHLY (Unearthly #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
Available January 4th
Received from publisher via NetGalley for review
Finally. Clara has a purpose. The reason she was put on earth and her destiny as an angel blood. She's supposed to save a boy from a forest fire, and with each recurrence of the vision, she gets one more little detail that will lead her to this boy and the completion of her of her preordained task.
Those few vital details lead Clara, her mother, and her brother to Jackson Hole, where a new house and a new life await, and the boy from her visions resides. His name is Christian Prescott, and Clara watches him from afar at school in the hopes of learning something that will help her better understand what she's been seeing.
The fire season in Jackson Hole is creeping ever closer, and Clara's life gets more and more complicated as she struggles with her ability to fly, juggles feelings for both Christian and surprisingly Tucker, her friend's brother, all the while learning there are aspects of being an angel blood she doesn't truly understand. While she originally thought her purpose was clear, she's quickly realizing it's not as straightforward as it once seemed, and it's leading her toward a decision she's not sure she's strong enough to make.
Unearthly is a welcome addition to the group of paranormal novels dealing with angel lore, one that beautifully blends normal with supernatural, drama with humor, and the crushing weight of duty with the intense desire to refuse dictation and shake loose the bonds of expectation. We are instantly swept up in Clara's world, her excitement and longing to fulfill her purpose creating an echoing yearning in us as we experience her visions with her, searching and waiting for any small clue that might advance her toward her goal. As we attempt to decipher the minute differences vision to vision, we find that normalcy and real life have made their way through the preternatural destiny and into prominence, leaving us with a prevalent sense of wonder as to how the two halves of Clara's life will fuse together, and what overall effect it will have on her divine purpose.
Gloriously average despite her paranormal heritage, Clara is a strong protagonist, one who strives to do everything that's asked of her but endearingly stumbles along her path to do so. Her circumstances are so very easy to relate to – the need to prove herself worthy and make her family proud, the sharp sting of rejection at the hands of a popular boy, and the dawning realization that shades of gray and vivid color are starting to replace the simplicity of the black and white of her life prior to coming to Jackson Hole. Though we may not all be close in age to Clara, she's written in such a way we find ourselves instantly transported back to a time when awkwardness and insecurity were more dominant factors in our lives, linking us to Clara on a variety of levels. Her hurt and pain are ours when she's suffering, just as our faces burn hot with anger and embarrassment one moment and our hearts flutter and palpitate in time to hers the next. Clara's reactions to different events are completely understandable, her confusion and distress with regard to the secrets her mother refuses to share are palpable, and her overwhelming sadness when the tough decisions must be made causes our breathing to quicken and our throats to constrict.
Much of the story focuses on the connection between Clara and Christian, but the way in which it's handled is a refreshing reprieve from the instant attraction of so many teenage relationships in fiction. Her interest stems from an innate curiosity of the boy whom she's supposed to save, and though she certainly isn't immune to his looks or charm, those aren't the aspects that fascinate her most. Because she's distracted by the details of her purpose, she remains oblivious to the attentions of Tucker, and their relationship is characterized by a weighted teasing and one-sided tension that makes our cheeks hurt as we smile hugely at her adorable naivete. Added to this unusual and unexpected love triangle is a story which seems fairly straightforward, but with each page comes a new piece of information that causes a subtle shift in our understanding. The dynamics of the angel blood world are fare more elaborate than either Clara or we assumed initially, and the mysteries of Clara's mom are numerous and weighty in their significance. It's an absolute pleasure to read as the tunnel-vision concerning her purpose begins to expand, growing to encompass the complications and drama that come from learning about and experiencing life.
This story is spectacularly striated, a delectable combination of layers rich in detail and saturated with mystery leaving our mouths watering for more as each new tier of sumptuous complexity is revealed. Ms. Hand is like the most gifted of sculptors, slowly and methodically creating until we see that the story is only just beginning to take shape, the multiple facets still indistinguishable at the conclusion ensuring our undivided attention moving forward as the remaining elements are shaped and carved, and the final product is unveiled.