Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Unearthly - Cynthia Hand

Unearthly book cover
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Series: Unearthly #1
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: January 4, 2011
Source/Format: Bought || Hardcover

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? 

After devouring Unearthly in just under two days, it is officially one of my favorite books of the year. While angel mythology is certainly key to the story, it comes across as a contemporary novel with just a hint of the supernatural. The mixture of genres is well-done, and leaves me feeling completely satisfied with the way everything is written. I enjoyed the story, and found it easy to devour, and am certain that others will as well.

The first thing you need to know about the book is this - I fell completely, head over heels in love with Wyoming as I read it. I wanted to visit immediately, just to see the spectacular settings described in this book. Hand manages to bring to life this place, and provide just enough detail so we get a good grasp of where our characters are based.

The second thing is that the angel lore is fleshed out in this novel, and sensibly so. The information is imparted to us in bits and pieces - "good" angels, "bad" angels and angelic history and abilities. This makes things easy to digest, but at the same time, can lead to a bit of confusion as we struggle to figure everything out right alongside Clara. Even though we get enough revelation to understand what's going on at some point, there's still more to be learned, and I'm eager to find out what that is.

The third thing about this book is the wonderfully fleshed-out set of characters. Hand did a superb job giving everyone memorable personalities, and I think that's something she should be proud of.

Clara was fun to read about because she reminded me of myself. Despite the fact that she's part angel, she still acts like a normal teenage girl would in most situations (especially emotional ones). What really struck me as something we shared was her choice between her purpose and her free will. That's a decision most of us typically face in our lives, and Hand has written it into this novel in a way that's easy to relate to and recognize.

Clara's family - her mother and brother Jeremy - are very much present in this book. I absolutely love that her family was considered as an important part of her story! Clara's mother was involved in her kids' lives, and tried her best to protect and shield them from harm. She was a supportive parental figure, and did her best to teach Clara about being an angel. Jeremy, on the other hand, acted like a typical younger brother. But there's no doubt in my mind that there's got to be something more to his role in this particular story.

It is impossible to ignore the presence of the two wonderful boys in this book, honestly. They're both such amazing people - Christian and Tucker - that any reader can see why it's hard to choose between them, whether in Clara's case or for ourselves. 

Christian struck me as a preppy boy. He's intelligent, sociable, athletic and he's popular. He's that rich kid who doesn't allow his family's money to define who he is or how he acts. He seems pretty down to earth, and kind, and I just could appreciate how genuinely nice he was. In real life, Christian would definitely be my type.

But honestly, I absolutely adored Tucker. What is it about cowboys? I don't know, but Tucker just came right around and lassoed my heart (and yes, I went there). He was a bit brusque initially, but his gruffness was just disguising the way he really felt about Clara. The strength and constancy of his feelings overwhelmed me to the point of falling completely for him. The moments they shared were just wonderful in their simplicity and ease, and I wanted to experience many of them for myself. In case it isn't obvious, I fell hard for Tucker.

Fourth, there's plenty for me to love about the story. I love that there's a love story between Clara, Christian and Tucker. I love that Clara's family also has a story. I love that learning about angels is a different story. And of course, there's the biggest story of all - Clara's decision to accomplish her purpose or to follow her heart. It's a fascinating set of stories all intertwined with Hand's deft hand, and I admire the way that the story just flows from page to page. As it winds to a conclusion, the way Clara's story plays out is very intriguing indeed, and leaves the door wide open to find out what happens next for all these characters.

When a book makes me constantly smile as I read it, I know it's a winner! Unearthly was a charming, intelligently written angel book, and it's given me hope that angel stories can be well-done indeed. I loved the way Hand wrote Clara's story (and the ever-present love triangle) (and the family situation) (and the angel stuff), and I'm eager to see how it continues in Hallowed. 

(So, a random subway story for you all! I was finishing up Unearthly on the subway and I was standing in front of a middle-aged lady. She called my attention and asked what the book was about. I told her, and she asked me questions about the angel mythology. She encouraged me to go back to reading after a few minutes, and said that perhaps she'd read the book too. Yay for book evangelism!)

33 comments:

  1. I loved Tucker in this book too! But then I changed my mind later... I don't know why I've been jumping ship mid-series lately. This never used to happen before! lol. But anyway, I wholeheartedly agree with your review. As interesting as the angel lore was, to me the best part was the exploration of Clara's choice - follow her heart or embrace destiny. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the rest of the books!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I really loved this series! I just listened to all three books on audio, which was really good. I think Clara's mom is on my "top ten YA parents" list. Yay for Team Tucker! :)

    Kate @ Ex Libris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really enjoyed Clara's relationship with her mom. It's nice to have a solid parental presence in a book for once!

      Delete
  3. Ahhh I'm so excited to read it!! I just bought it a few weeks ago and I DEFINITELY want to get to it soon! Your review is getting me all riled up for it LOL

    ReplyDelete
  4. Right after I read this book there was a story in a magazine that I read about Jackson Hole Wyoming. It had a picture of that antler arch, and a bunch of other pictures. It made the setting so real. Perfect timing. Can't remember what magazine, though, but if you google it you can see pictures. It's really a beautiful place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did take a look at the photos, and I must say - INCREDIBLE. I seriously want to go and visit now.

      Delete
  5. I loved this book so much! I thought so many aspects of it were brilliant, from the way the lore was handled to the romance (holy crap, I could not BREATHE at one point. For several seconds. For real.) to the setting of the book. And oh, I loved Tucker so much as well! This was the first angel book I actually read (after quitting Fallen after like 25 pages), and I feel like it probably spoiled all others for me. I just don't see how they could measure up!

    Love your subway story, too. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! The subway experience was definitely a new one for me.

      And I totally agree about the romance! I just smiled and sighed and swooned through most of it ;)

      Delete
  6. I fell pretty hard for Tucker, too. Maybe cowboy hats are the way forward. ;) I'm glad you enjoyed this book, Alexa! Great review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cowboys are apparently appealing to me. This is new information!

      Delete
  7. Awesome about your Subway encounter. I've been interested in reading this one so it was fun to read your review.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I keep hearing so many good things about this series that I really want to check it out. Loved this review, Alexis! :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ah crap! I just realized I typed your name wrong. I really should have been paying more attention before I clicked submit. So sorry, Alexa! :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No worries! I do that a lot too :)

      Delete
  10. This is such a great review of this book Alexa! You said everything that I felt about it and more. I'm so excited to see your thoughts on the other two books too!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Such a great series!! I agree with you that the imagery was beautiful.... from the setting to the characters. Totally Team Christian though.... u might change your mind once you read Hallowed. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why does everyone keep saying that? I do want to find out why everyone hopped ship to Christian though.

      Delete
  12. I hope the subway lady gives this book a try! It's definitely one of my favorite angel stories and I can't wait to give Boundless a read!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope she does too! And that she loves it.

      Delete
  13. I have always been put off by the covers of this series and assumed, based on the covers, that this series was not worth my time.

    But, lately I've been reading all these reviews and I am amazed to hear these books are good! I am a fan of contemps with a slight paranormal aspect, so I will be checking this book out.

    Also, yay for the lady on the subway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Honestly, I wasn't drawn in by the covers (though I think they look pretty lined up on my shelf). But Jamie convinced me to read it - and I'm so glad she did!

      Delete
  14. It sounds like I'll like Tucker better. Boo boring jocks :P haha I NEED to read his! Everyone's getting on the bandwagon except for me. I'm moving it up on my TBR list. So excited!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes to Tucker + cowboys! I didn't know I liked cowboys (for real) until this book.

      Delete
  15. Though I can appreciate the mythology and paranormal edge to the series, I'm still not so sure that Angels are for me. What really strikes me hard, though, is that Clara's family is ever present in the book. You don't really see much of that in YA these days and its sorely missed. I am wondering what happened to her dad though. Is he even mentioned in the book?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, her father. He's around, and still in touch with them, but he's not necessarily a part of their world. I do like that there's still a real relationship there.

      Delete
  16. I can't wait to hear what you think about ALL THE AMAZINGNESS that the end brings. I'm so glad you're enjoying this series :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can be sure I will tweet you all about it love <3

      Delete
  17. "charming and intelligently written" YES YES YES. I was honestly so scared about this one because angel books and I usually aren't friends. But this one just was such a delight and totes agree...so smile inducing.

    And I so agree...there's so much to this story -- family, destiny and fate and free will..so much goodness in addition to the boys. TEAM TUCKER.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have such a hard time with angel books, so I really was worried about this one. But you were right - I ended up really loving it! Can't wait to continue on.

      Delete
  18. The biggest draw of this novel for me (besides the extreme hype) is the knowledge that Hand really created her own unique angel mythology. I love it when authors are able to build upon already present ideas and mythologies to create something new. I am not a fan, however, of love triangles or it being basically a contemporary book with a few paranormal elements. I am so conflicted about whether I want to read this book or not!

    That's awesome you reading the book in public and explaining it to another person helped get out more interest and awareness! What's reading for, if not to experience things and want to help others also experience it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. Reading is meant to be a shared experience, surprisingly. I do hope you end up giving it a try, even if you end up just liking the first book!

      Delete
  19. I love that you mentioned the setting --- I haven't seen a ton of reviews that mention setting and it's such an important part of the book and Hand totally nails it.

    Also? I love love love how smart the Unearthly books are. I went in kind of skeptical because I've been burned by angel books but then I left totally pleased.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GAH, you have made me SO excited for the next books in the series! And yes, the setting was FAB.

      Delete

Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...