Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Unearthly

UNEARTHLY (Unearthly #1)
Cynthia Hand
Paranormal Young Adult
448 pages
Harper Teen
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.

Rating: 4.5/5


  1. Lovely review. I'm a little more excited about this after this review. I've been staring at the cover for a while, but I've been worried that it would be another one of those books with the intense "I'll die without him" relationships again. I think I'll actually pick it up now.

  2. Nice review! I was so worried this would be another cookie-cutter insta-love book. I'm so glad to hear it isn't (especially with that cover. I just want at least one angel book to live up to its beautiful cover).

  3. Excellent review, as usual! I'm happy to read you loved the book because I haven't always been impressed with angel books in the past. I love Clara from your description. Looking forward to this one!

  4. Lovely review! Talk about a sculpture of wordsr -- yours! I'm looking forward to this one for the 2k11 Challenge.

  5. "their relationship is characterized by a weighted teasing and one-sided tension that makes us our cheeks hurt as we smile hugely at her adorable naivete". So true and another amazing review.

    Glad you enjoyed this book :)

  6. Thank you so much for the informative and well-written review! Unearthly sounds like pure brilliance, and the romance in it sounds adorable. Can't wait to read it!

  7. Terrific review!! I LOVED this book and I do not like angel books! I can't wait for the sequel. I'm a little in love with Tucker.... *sigh*

  8. Great review. I loved Clara and this book. This was one book that I could not put down. Now I am anxiously waiting for the sequel!!

  9. Sounds great. It sounds like this features what is best about paranormals and avoids what is worst. I'm not a big angel mythology fan, but if it's done well, I like it. This is up next on my NetGalley list, so I should be reading it soon.
    PS. What did you think of Angelfire?

  10. Oh gosh... I am so conflicted! On the one hand I see reviews (like yours) where people really enjoy it, but on the other hand, I have seen some reviews where people think it is a waste of time. Buy or not to buy? That is the question...
    One thing in its favour in my opinion? "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." YAY!

  11. Ok, this just sounds fantastic! I like the sound of the story - it's a bit refreshing, even if it's not the mot original tale. I love that you said the story is layered and detailed - just my type. Excellent review, Jenny :)

  12. I can't tell you how much I adored this book. I can't believe I almost let it pass me by. It's quickly joined the list of my favourites. I loved everything about it!

    Great review! :)

  13. Laura - Definitely not a case of the "I'll die without him" which is what I loved so much about it:)

    Small - no insta-love, YAY! Especially with Tucker, that relationship was fabulous:)

    Aylee - I haven't had much luck with angel books either, but I loved this one:)

    Julie - Thank you so much!

    Nic - I just loved the Tucker relationship, I could read the book again just for that:)

    Erika - Hope you like it as much as I did!

    Lori - Me too! I want more of him in book 2:)

    Savy - I couldn't either, I barreled through it in one sitting!

    Alison - I though it was very well done, not hitting us in the face with the mythology and letting real, relatable life work side by side with the paranormal. Haven't read Angelfire, I have that for this week though I've read mixed reviews. We'll see:)

    Avery - I think you'll like it, it made me laugh and I thought the relationships were handled really well:)

    Melissa - It's really good, so much going on but yet not so much that it's overwhelming.

    Leanna - I was hesitant to read it as well, angels aren't always my thing, but it was definitely one of my favorites for the year!

  14. Sounds like a really different spin on what it means to be a guardian angel. Typically, the guardian angel role is filled by a male character. Refreshing to see a woman in the savior role. Awesome review jenny!

  15. You always write the most wonderfully worded reveiews! I've heard nothing but good things about this one, so I am glad to see that you enjoyed it! I love some good layering :)


  16. I definitely agree with you. Clara seemed like such an average teen girl, I loved that about her. Fantastic review, Jenny! :D

  17. Carissa - I thought it was refreshing, I think you'd enjoy it:)

    Linds - Thank you and likewise!

    Adriana - Exactly, I adored her:)

  18. Great review Jenny! Everybody is reviewing this books today LOL Im still on the fence on the the whole angel thing though =P

  19. Oh goody! This one is next on my tbr! YaY! Sounds like I will enjoy it and the characters really sound interesting. Thanks so much for the review.

  20. You know my streak of being disappointed with angel books lately, but I'm really hoping this one breaks my run. I skimmed through your review because I'll be reading this really soon. Glad you liked it though!

  21. Larissa - It's probably not for everyone, but I loved it:)

    Melissa - Can't wait to see what you think!

    Rummanah - I've been disappointed with angel books as well, but I thought this one was great:) Looking forward to your thoughts on it!

  22. Excellent review !! I've heard such great things about this. I will request it on netgalley too =) Thanks for the review.

  23. "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

    THAT is what makes me so excited to read this book. I have it in my review pile, so hopefully, I'll be getting around to it soon. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  24. Wow Jenny!

    For me, naive protagonists walk a very fine line between being adorable and being annoying. Add a love triangle to that and you got an apprehensive reader, me. But your lovely review is swaying me here. Definitely looking forward to checking this one out.


  25. Wow, this one actually sounds quite good. I might try it out, even though angel stories don't interest me at all. I love reading your reviews -- you word them so beautifully.

  26. Shantal - You definitely should, it's fabulous:)

    Natalie - It was really refreshing that she didn't suddenly become an incoherent, babbling puddle of goo whenever she saw him!

    Missie - The love triangle isn't your conventional one, it's handled different and becomes something very interesting, I think you might like this one!

    Ashley - Usually the angel ones don't do it for me either, but this one was one I couldn't put down. And thank you so much, I'm glad you enjoy the reviews!

  27. What a great review! The love triangle at least sounds interesting - I'm so sick of horrible love triangles - and it's good to see that it won't just be love at first. 2011 is going to be a good year!

  28. Oooh this one sounds really good! I love that it is layered and builds slowly on itself. And an unexpected love triangle! You have sold me on this book. Great review. :)

  29. Zahida - Thank you! This love triangle is subtle and there's a clear preference for one boy of the other at the end which was nice:)

    Jen - I hope you give it a try!

  30. Oooh just got this one from Netgalley on my Kindle..definitely my next read!!!

  31. Very well-written review Jenny! I've read some other positive things about Unearthly so I will have to check it out at some point :)

  32. Another brilliant review Jenny! I cannot wait to start this one! I'm not a huge fan of love triangles, but they seem near impossible to avoid anymore :/

  33. What an awesome review! Thanks, Jenny! I have heard many good things about this book and your review doesn't disappoint :) I can't wait for it to hit the shelves!


  34. This sounds great. I can't wait to read this book. I've been reading a number of paranormal romances lately where the main character is a bit too Mary Sue-ish, and she instantly falls in LOVE with one (or two) of the male leads, mainly based on their looks and that's it. Judging from your review this sounds a little more balanced and better written than most.

  35. I'm excited to get to this one. I have it waiting on NetGalley & hope to start it in the next couple days! I'm glad you liked it so well!