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Unearthly
Cynthia Hand
HarperTeen, 448 pages

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

Cynthia Hand Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Katherine Petersen

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Cynthia Hand's Unearthly is a wonderful example of a young adult paranormal book that stands head and shoulders above the pack. Fully developed, realistic characters, vivid descriptions of the rugged beauty of the area around Jackson and situations in which she shows us rather than tells us about the people in her story make Hand a talent to follow. Clara Gardner is one-quarter angel which, among other things, makes her faster and smarter than her peers although she tries to hide this, so she can live as normal a life as possible. Being an angel-blood also means she has an individual purpose for her life but discovering the details isn't easy. She gets bits and pieces from a vision of a boy, a truck and a raging forest fire that lead her family to move from the Bay Area to Jackson, Wyoming.

She identifies the boy as Christian, a popular boy at her new school with a girlfriend who makes it clear that Clara shouldn't get any ideas about her beau. While Christian is the boy from her dreams (literally), there's another one who -- after some sniping back and forth -- catches her fancy. Tucker, twin to one of Clara's new friends, has looks, charm, and oh yeah, he's a "real" cowboy and probably loves his horse more than himself. A love triangle, some angst and a purpose (that won't be easy to fulfill) but won't be dangerous, right? Ah, well... There is danger and Clara faces choices she never thought she'd have to make: good vs. evil, honesty v. deceit and right v. wrong that will change her life...

Cynthia Hand has created a mesmerizing tale that draws the reader in from the beginning and doesn't let go. She develops characters readers can easily care about and real situations so it's easy to feel like a participant in her story rather than an observer, and she doesn't rely on teenage angst to propel the story forward. Hand's storyline gives readers glimpses of Clara's every-day life as well as focusing in on important events, and she's able to weave both together without letting one outshine the other. This ability enables the reader to fully immerse in Clara's life experiences.

Her plot has unexpected twists to maintain tension, and it's hard to predict ahead of time what decisions Clara will make. While much of this book set the stage for future novels in the trilogy, Hand has done a masterful job of combining angel mythology, a realistic paranormal environment and terrific characters into a book that's not to miss. Personally, I try to read the book as slowly as I could because I didn't want it to end.

Copyright © 2011 Katherine Petersen

Katherine Petersen started reading as a young child and hasn't stopped. She still thinks she can read all the books she wants, but might, at some point, realize the impossibility of this mission. While she enjoys other genres, she thrives on fantasy, science fiction and mysteries.


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