Unearthly (Unearthly #1)

UnearthlyBy Cynthia Hand

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: January 4, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Publisher

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?

Goodreads Summary

So you’re an angel.  Well, quarter-angel, if you want to get technical about it.  You’ve been having these visions, given a purpose as your mom calls it (she’s half angel), which means you’ve got a duty to be ready to fulfill your part of it, to figure out what it is you need to do.  You think it means getting close to Christian, the gorgeous and unattainable guy at school every girl wants who thinks you’re invisible and whose friends call you Hot Bozo.  He’s the one you see in your vision, in the middle of the forest fire.  The problem is, you’re torn between your duty and feelings for him and your feelings for Tucker, your best friend’s brother that all the nice girls hang out with and who’s crushing on you (he calls you Carrot).  So is fate determined by who we love?  Do we get to make our own choices about who we want to be with or is our path already set?

Those are just a couple of the weighty issues dropped on the shoulders of teenaged Clara, the heroine of Unearthly, set to be the first in Hand’s debut trilogy.  If last year’s trends were vampires and shapeshifters, this is definitely the year of the angel.  From Lauren Kate to Alexandra Adornetto and a dozen or so others, it’s in to be winged.  While Unearthly doesn’t necessarily stand out in neon from the rest, it’s still an excellent, enjoyable story.

The story started off with Clara’s vision and from there, the story is off like a rocket.  Because this is told in first person present tense, there’s no back story unless it’s in the form of one of Clara’s memories.  The story is told as it’s happening and it took a chapter or so to come up to speed with things.  This was one of the issues I initially had with the book; there was the vision, then the story began.  I was expected to just know Clara was an angel, she knew it and was fine with it and I had no idea how or why it had come about.  It was jarring.  The back story fed out later and by then I was into the rhythm of the story, but at the start of the book, I could have used something a little smoother.

One of the things I liked best about the book was that unlike a lot of other YAs, situations and people were rarely drawn in black and white.  The school bad girl (who happens to be Christian’s bitchy girlfriend) who had some serious hate for Clara was a sympathetic, hurt person and the Black Wing bad guy even had a reason to feel sorry for him.  On the polar side, one of Clara’s best friends, while seeming to have pure motives for grilling her mother about angels, is occasionally secretive and could have ulterior motives.  Clara herself is far from perfect: she’s vulnerable, gets picked on for being dorky, can’t do a lot of what she’s supposed to and is in full crisis mode with her mother, who’s gone from supportive and full of information is hiding things, obviously withdrawn and anxious.

I also enjoyed what Hand’s done with Clara’s two love interests.  Again rather than go the black and white, good and bad route, she’s actually written two characters that could potentially be The One.  I say potentially, because Christian was completely short shrifted in terms of development here.  He was the hot jock in Clara’s vision, she was attracted to him and he sort of vanished from the story for a while.  The rest was all handsome, personable Tucker and the gorgeous Jackson, Wyoming scenery.  Hand herself grew up in the area and it shows; some of the most beautiful passages are of Clara and Tucker spending time outdoors.

The ending isn’t such a giant cliffhanger that it should be off-putting to anyone afraid to read a book meant to be a series, but there are also enough dangling threads here to make fans of continuing stories happy too.  Unanswered questions about the mysterious actions of Clara’s brother Jeffery (also a half angel) and what the appearance of the Black Wing who tried to kidnap Clara means are more than enough to justify picking up the second book.  This is a definite recommend.

My Rating: B+




  1. I loved this book! Great blog I really like your focus!

  2. Thank you so much, Pam! I'm all rosy-blushed, since I'm sort of a fangurl of yours. 🙂

  3. Another great review 🙂 I'm with you on the characters, I loved that Clara's friends felt like real people. They weren't just there to make the heroine look good. I can't wait to find out what will eventually happen with her angel friend. Ten bucks she turns bad!I agree the Christian got shafted here, he was so personality-less and boring, but I have to admit, the ending totally took me by surprise and I loved that. His role reminded me somewhat of Gale in the Hunger Games. I hope he gets to play a more active part in the next book. I'm totally Team Tucker though. I hope Clara ends up giving destiny the finger.I actually liked that we were just dropped into the story though. I guess I'm kind of sick of books so much time is devoted to set-up and you get mountains of exposition about what's going on and who's who and why. Sometimes it's nice to just drop in and have to figure it our yourself!

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