Best young adult angel book I've read
In Cynthia Hand's Unearthly, high school student Clara is an angel-blood, the child of a part-angel and a human. When she starts having visions that show a beautiful boy standing by a forest fire, Clara and her family follow where the vision leads, all the way to a new home in Wyoming. Once there, Clara finds herself drawn to the boy in the vision, Christian, but confused by her purpose and where it will lead, especially after another guy enters the picture, a cute cowboy named Tucker. When dark forces begin to threaten, Clara must decide between doing what feels right and what her destiny demands.
Despite glowing reviews from friends, I started UNEARTHLY with trepidation. I've had bad experiences with the other angel books I've read, and I was afraid that this would be much of the same. Thankfully, UNEARTHLY was different than the rest of the pack in many good ways.
One thing I immediately appreciated was the well-researched angel lore and how the author wove bits of that mythology into her story. I really liked the world that was created, with each angel-blood having a purpose, their "glory," and the characterization of the Black Wings. The author's choice to make Clara and her counterparts part-angel, instead of full, really helped me believe in their humanity and normalcy. Clara had spunk, imperfections, and a realistic voice, and I never questioned whether an angel-blood could be that way. Even with all the talk about angels, the story also never felt preachy, even when mentions of God appeared.
The characters and their relationships were another strength. Side characters like Clara's friends were important to the story, and Clara's relationship with her mother and brother felt real. Great dialogue kept the story moving, especially in the second half. The romantic storyline presented a love triangle with two great guys, not the typical nice guy vs. bad boy. When a romance did develop, it was sweet and swoon-worthy and based on shared experiences over time. The number of healthy relationships depicted in this story, whether romantic or friendly or familial, was refreshing.
Even with these strengths, there were a few places where I wished for more. The first 100 pages were slow, and I found myself becoming frustrated with what seemed like a predictable love plot. Though the love story did change, another one of the major plot twists was too easy to figure out. The ending, though not a true cliffhanger, also left a lot unresolved. While it set up things for the next installment, I would have liked to have learned more about Clara's purpose, her mother's past, and the threat of the Dark Wings.
All in all, UNEARTHLY is the best (and only good) young adult angel book I've read, and I'm very glad I got over my apprehension and read it. I'm looking forward to seeing if Hand can continue to bring the quick dialogue, swoony moments, and meaningful relationships in the sequel, Hallowed. I sure hope so.