Unearthly (Unearthly #1)

UnearthlyUnearthly by Cynthia Hand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

It's been 2 days since I finished the book and I haven't written a review earlier because I couldn't make up my mine whether to give it 3 or 4 stars. So I settled for the half star.

Unearthly is the story of Clara, a 17 year old quarter-angel girl. That is, she is the daughter of a half-angel, a Nephilim, who then married a human and procreated an (actually two, Clara has a brother Jeffrey) offspring with one quarter angel blood. In this reality where angels exist, their scope in life is to fulfill a purpose, a task which is given to them in order to... well, we actually don't really know WHY there is a task and what happens if one does not complete it. Clara gets her purpose by means of a vision and she and her family set off to Wyoming to look for this boy, Christian, who Clara sees in her vision and that she apparently has to save from a fire.

There were quite a few things that I liked about this book. It deals with a completely unoriginal theme in YA - angels and fallen angels -  in a fairly original way. Clara is a regular teenager, quite unaware of being an angel until she reaches her teen years and this mysterious purpose was quite interesting. No guardian angels but one-time tasks which hold the meaning of your existence in one single act.
Unfortunately though, the lack of information about this whole purpose managed to mildly irritate me. What happens once you complete your task? You retire? You get to live a normal life as an undercover superhero and you get to keep your wings and fly to work? Are angels mortal or immortal? Clara's mother is more than a century old, yet Clara says more than once that, under certain circumstances, she can die.

What I really liked about this book were the writing style - which was smooth, with nice, snarky dialogues -  and characterization. In my opinion, these are the two strong points about of this book, so much so that I think I would have liked even more if Cynthia Hand had written something WITHOUT the paranormal element. A plain YA book, to be clear.
Of all the characters, I particularly liked Clara's mom and Tucker. I know, I know, Tucker is Mr. Perfect, but still. I would have given my right arm to have such a cowboy as a 17th birthday present, thank you very much. I would have loved to be in Clara's shoes for the summer, hiking around, fishing and picking huckleberries with Tucker in the woods. And thanks to Hand's writing style the scenery is stunning, I really could picture it all. Leave broody Christian in New York, who cares? I cheer for the hottie with the cowboy hat.

The relationship between Clara and her mom felt real. For once, we get a parent who's there for her kids, mysterious as she might be. Much is left undisclosed about Clara's mother but I am sure everything will come out in the sequels. Why is she so secretive about her own purpose? Why is she telling Clara NOTHING? Why is she always tired and does she really have a job with Apple in California? Even with all these questions hanging her character was well developed and likable.

So yeah, without getting into too much detail, I mainly liked the characters and the setting. As for the plot, even with no cliffhanger (thank god for small things) at the end, it still feels incomplete and with lots of loose ends. I am full of questions: what's the deal with Clara's father? Something is off there. What's the deal with Angela's trip to Italy? Why is the Italian lover (and once again I won't even start about the role of Italy in these paranormal books) mentioned and then never brought up again? Is Angela good or bad, since the whiteness of her wings is debated on more than once? What is the real deal with Christian?
I will be reading the next book for sure even though I'm really getting fed up with these series... I have to wait a YEAR now? I vote for more standalones.

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