by Cynthia Hand
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
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?
Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
I knew that Unearthly was the first book in a series when I went into it, but that didn't stop me from being pretty disappointed after I turned the final page. For me, a good series of books has installments that can, more or less, stand on their own. Of course there need to be some bits of mystery left unresolved to entice the reader on to the next book. But in the case of this book, there was no balance; there simply wasn't enough plot in Unearthly to make up for all the loose ends that were left hanging at the end.
While I don't have a problem with the basic premise of the story (a girl who's part angel has to figure out how to fulfill her heavenly purpose), I thought the actual execution was a bit lacking. The main issue is that the book was really light on plot. I mean, really light. Aside from a rather silly love triangle, Clara waxing poetic about the physical attributes of the two main love interests, and some boring high school stuff, not much happens... especially in the first half of the book. In fact, I was past the halfway point when something interesting actually happened... or, really, when something interesting was foreshadowed. The foreshadowing played out later in an event that was so poorly explained that it seemed tacked-on and contrived. I assume that aspect of the story will be expanded upon in the next book(s).
As for the characters... Let's just say that this book made me feel like I'm way too old for YA fiction. I could not relate to Clara at all. Her fixation on the looks of the two love interests (who are, of course, both perfect physical specimens of manhood at seventeen) was superficial and annoying. I took to calling Tucker "the walking dimple" in my head as I read the book, because that feature was mentioned ad nauseum by Clara. I found it annoying that she managed to reduce what was otherwise a really nice guy character into a small collection of physical traits. As for Christian, I just didn't get what Clara saw in him. Yes, he was the boy from her vision... but he was pretty much a Gary Stu. Which is, I guess, appropriate, since Clara herself is one of the biggest Mary Sues I've encountered in a while. By her very nature, she's good at almost everything, and stunningly beautiful, to boot. Boring. She doesn't even seem sure of how she wants to feel about things; so many of her reactions seemed surprising to me, inexplicable or out of place considering the situation.
When I was more than halfway through, and not much was happening, I started to get bored. And when I get bored, I start to notice all sorts of errors and various other things that make me go, "Hmm?" I'm still trying to figure out how Clara kept staring at the dimple in Tucker's left cheek as he drove. They were in Wyoming... not England.
On the plus side, the cover is pretty and actually makes sense. The mountains and trees reflect the setting, and the monochrome palette may be a nod to one particular scene. The dress the girl is wearing is featured in the book (it looks like Clara's prom dress), so it's not just one of those "girl-wearing-a-pretty-dress-for-no-reason-whatsoever" covers. I also thought the chapter titles were pretty cute; they were sort of lighthearted and it was nice to see something other than simple numbered chapters.
I can't say that I really enjoyed this one. However, it wasn't totally awful, and if you're the type of reader who's really into series and doesn't mind having to wait through a few books before getting some answers, you might get some enjoyment out of Unearthly. Personally, though, I think I'm done with this particular angel series.
Overall: 2.43 out of 5