By Cynthia Hand
I had heard such wonderful things about this book and series and yet I still allowed this book to sit on my shelf for much too long before I finally started reading it last week. While I’m glad that I finally read it, I did find some issues with the book. UNEARTHLY is a *very* good book, yes, and deserving of much of its praise. But the main character boggled it down for me at times. Even still, in the end this was the first angel book that I have ever enjoyed reading. I jumped right into book two, Hallowed, after reading Unearthly.
The story is intriguing and fairly unique. Clara is a modern age quarter-angel. Her mom is half-angel and her dad is human. She is growing up in California, believing herself to be a normal (albeit highly talented) young lady. At the age when teenage girls typically begin worry about “that time of the month” and boys, instead Clara learned about her angel heritage and came into her own powers. At the time of the book she is 16 and starts having visions of a boy – this is her purpose, the visions are telling her what she must some day do. Thus, after finding out that the boy lives in Wyoming, her family up and moves so that she may fulfill her “reason for living”. (Oh, how I wish I could use that as my excuse to get back to AZ some day!) What could possibly happen once Clara gets to Wyoming? What will she do when she finally meets the boy from the vision? Sounds interesting, yes? I thought so, too.
Oh, Clara. Clara, Clara, Clara… I really DID NOT like her for most of the book. One word can be used to describe her: SHALLOW. One can hardly go a handful of pages without her noting someone’s appearance, social status, judging them, being self absorbed or otherwise obsessed with her peers. I know, I know, she’s a teenager and this is most likely just her personality, which is typical behavior for many kids her age, but it just grated on my nerves at times. A good chunk of the book dealt with her being critical and shallow. One particular moment, when she left a friend so that she could stalk the boy in her vision, really lowered my impression of Clara. Does she redeem herself in the end? A bit, but I would have loved to have seen a big more growth in her for me to be completely convinced. Two other characters, Tucker and Clara’s mom, I like more than Clara; one for his rugged ways and charming personality, and the other for her mysterious background and back story. The boy in the vision, Christian, didn’t become interesting to me until the very end. And, hoo boy, I wasn’t sure if I saw that one coming. Which leads me to another point, the shift in Christian’s behaviors/motives throughout the book was a bit confusing. Christian: is he or is he not in love with his current girlfriend? Is he or is he not interested in Clara? Did it have to do with the ending? I didn’t really see it in that way, even after reflecting back to previous events…
I love the wildness of the Midwest. Cynthia did a good job of describing the scenery and the environment. She used the location well in order to incorporate skiing, fishing, horseback riding, and flying among the treetops. Now if only I could go to Wyoming myself some day… By placing the characters in a small town high school setting also adds to the idea that Clara just can’t seem to fit in.
As I said before, the concept of the story is really intriguing. I only wish that more time was spent on working toward her actual purpose and not on Clara being stalker creepy, obsessed with fitting in, and just plain being shallow. Her inability to fly seemed to be such a big deal to her, and for all the focus it received in the beginning, how that problem was resolved seemed a bit anticlimactic to me. My favorite part of the book ended up being the development of her relationship with Tucker and, as time went on, less and less about Clara’s purpose. I am not sure if this was the intent, but it felt a little off putting that one’s interest would shift from the actual plot of the book towards something else entirely. Maybe if the book had been about 100 pages shorter my interest would not have waned.
One thing that Cynthia can do is write. Often equal parts humorous and lyrical, her words have a way of pulling you into the book and experiencing what the characters are experiencing. And her descriptions of attaining glory are just unbelievable. There are moments that I really do feel that there is something “heavenly” about the story. It is because of these moments that I decided to jump right into book two. After her experiences in Unearthly I believed that Clara HAD to grow up in some way. But that is for another review. 😉
So while I certainly did have some issues with the book (mostly dealing with the character, Clara) I still consider this to be one of the best books about angels out there. If you read only one angel series in your life, let this be the one.