UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand

Summary: 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.

Lo says: Sometimes I want to review a book with a single word — SWOONY, or maybe HEARTCLENCH– and hope that those single descriptions carry enough of my enthusiasm to make my friends want to read it.

UNEARTHLY almost got a one word review. I pretty much just want to yell TUCKER! over and over again and hope that everyone flocks to their local (indie) bookstore to buy a copy.

Honesty time: it took me about 50 pages to get into this book, but Leiah and Tonya had raved about it so much that I knew I would get to that can’tputitdown stage if I just hung in there. I think UNEARTHLY was the first victim of my Reading Slump because it was a start-stop-start-stop for me, but I’ve since gone back and re-read the first several chapters again and they’re outstanding. So I think I was just mentally impaired in early August.

::awkward silence where no one disagrees with me::

Aaaanyway, the premise is that Clara is an angel-blood, has visions about her purpose (her entire reason for being put on the planet, KIND OF A BIG DEAL), and these visions propel her mother to move Clara and her brother from California to Wyoming. That’s when the real fun starts because in Jackson Hole, Clara meets a host of characters, including Christian, Wendy, Angela and… (all together now) TUCKER!

Tucker. Avery.

Let me just take a moment to ask Cynthia Hand two questions: WOMAN, ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS BOY? ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL US?

He’s amazing, because he’s different. He’s a cowboy (in YA!) and he’s a completely sincere smart ass (it makes sense, trust me). He doesn’t cuss, he opens doors for ladies, he gives as good as he gets, has a DIMPLE when he smiles for crying out loud, and there is not a drop of Bad Boy in him.

I love the Bad Boy thing in fiction (OH HI RETH! HI REN! YES EVEN YOU AKIVA!), and I also love when authors surprise me by making me love the Good Guy more. I don’t mean good guy as in nice guy. There are plenty of swoony nice guys in YA.  I mean good, as in morally upstanding, emotionally connected to his sibling, respectful and close to his parents, responsible. (Good in a river raft doesn’t hurt. Neither does the expert fly fishing. I AM JUST SAYING). Tucker Avery is so good and so swoony. I can’t, you guys. It’s too much to handle.

But aside from the boy, what I loved about the book was how the reader is taken on this path with Clara. We always/only know just as much as she does. Clara’s purpose reveals itself to her in vague puzzle pieces. Although each time she has a vision she learns something new (as do we), at different points in the book, Clara forgets that her purpose is her #1 priority (as do we). Right alongside her we’re getting caught up in her interactions with Christian, we’re curious about Angela, we’re creepily designing Tucker Avery bots swooning over Tucker. And just as she remembers, “OOPS, I have to work on my purpose that justifies my existence!” we remember it, too. [Right, right, that Tucker fellow is a distraction. Let me watch him while you attend to that angel business, C.]

Other things done well? The dialogue, oh the dialogue. It was so real and fresh and engrossing. Also: distance arises between Clara and her mom (not entirely resolved – very interesting), but it feels natural and unforced. It’s the kind of distance that you notice most once it feels almost too far to fix, and you look back and wonder, “How did we get here?”

Things I Need to Know Now: What is up with Jeffrey? Why don’t I trust Angela? Who else already figured out that one thing at the end (holla!)? What is up with the mom and why is she so damn tired? THESE ARE THINGS I NEED TO KNOW, CYNTHIA.

I give this one:
Swoony Boy Alert
I Will Reswoon Soon
Straight to the Favorites Pile

About the author: Cynthia Hand divides her time between Southern California, where she lives with her husband and son, and southeast Idaho near the Teton mountains. She teaches creative writing at Pepperdine University.