Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

UnearthlyFrom the author's website: "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."

How's this for an admission?  I went into this novel expecting the worst.  I have had no luck with the big name young adult angel novels, and this one had gotten so little press and reviews on my favorite blogs that I just assumed it was kind of not great.  And to prove my point of "Go into something with low expectations and you're sure to be pleasantly surprised", I loved this novel.  In fact, I immediately did a search on Amazon and Goodreads to see if I was going crazy and I found I wasn't alone.  The ratings for this novel were almost all good.

The story starts with a vision from Clara which leads her family to move in an attempt to make the vision come true since Clara's mother (an angelblood herself) declares that this is Clara's purpose in life.  To fulfill this vision.  Clara does not doubt her mother, so move they do.  There Clara meets several others who will either help or hinder her in her purpose and she learns more about what it means to have a purpose and to have the blood of an angel.

Clara's story is an intriguing one which explores the concepts of duty versus love, destiny versus choices, and friendship versus family.  The real winning conflict, to me, is destiny versus choices.  This is an especially fitting conflict to be explored in a novel of angels and devils since God created angels without free will.  How much do I love the author for explaining that in this novel and addressing how an angel would fall without God's express permission and orders?

I honestly never knew if Clara was making the right decisions, but it wasn't because I felt she was being dumb or vapid.  Like Clara, we are given certain input and data, and based on that, we have to guess -- is Clara making the right decision?  Does it matter if her soul gets slightly tarnished if we feel she's morally right?  Or are her decisions ones which will have longer consequences than we can guess at?

I'm very excited for the next novel now.  I want to know more about Clara's family members especially.  Why is her mother so secretive and what is the deal with her brother?  And, again, I'm so happy that I want to continue to read not based on the romance but based on the strength of the plot.

Verdict: 8.  I was surprised by how much I liked this novel, and I'll happily get the next book in the series.  It's not the best book I've ever read, but it's a quick and entertaining read.

Thoughts: Seriously, why is it so hard to find good novels about angels?  Hush, Hush was hysterically bad.  Fallen had so many problems and its sequel was worse.  I haven't heard good reviews for any other big name angel books.  Good on you, Cynthia Hand!

Also, contrary to what it might seem from the copy, Tucker is no supernatural creature.  He's human.  His sister is human.  There are humans in this story and they don't suck and they aren't unimportant side characters, which is a nice change from just about every paranormal novel I've ever read.  Sure, there aren't many, but it matters.

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