Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

When I saw that one of my favorite goodreaders, Tatiana, gave this book four stars I thought she'd gone insane.  I mean, it's a YA book featuring angels for crying out loud!  Surely it can't be good let alone worthy of four whole stars from Tatiana, so clearly she lost her mind.   But I purchased the audiobook anyway because it was January 13th and I was anxiously awaiting the release of [book:Shadowfever|7304203] which was still five days away at the time.  Plus it didn't hurt that this audiobook was reasonably priced at Audible.

Initially I was a little irritated with Unearthly.  It starts out with a dream/vision that the main character has--is it just me or do too many of these books start out the exact same way?  But I kept with it because I paid for it, dangit!  Fortunately it didn't take too long for my initial irritation to wear off--I'd say no longer then the first few chapters. 

For the next several chapters I didn't have much of an opinion.  Not that the book was bad, because it wasn't.  The writing was fine, good even, but I refused to make an official judgment call.  Too many times I've fallen in love with a book only, in the end, to hate it more then poison.  I wasn't going to get burned.  Nope.  Not me.  Not again. 

Now all is said and done I'm going to go ahead and say Tatiana isn't crazy.  This book is good.  In fact I'm going to go ahead and give this book four stars because I really like it.  Though, in my heart, it will always be a five-star read because it's one of few YA paranormal romances that doesn't make me want to go on a stabbing spree.  Also? Unearthly is the only published YA novel featuring angels that doesn't make me want to hunt down the author so I can punch him/her in the face repeatedly.

I know the last few sentences make me seem violent beyond all reason, but believe me I have plenty of reason.  Just read every other YA paranormal romance featuring angels and you'll agree.  And anyway, when I say 'stabbing spree' I really mean 'write a scathing review and/or weep for all the trees destroyed in order to publish such atrocities'.  And when I say: 'hunt down the author so I can punch him/her in the face'?  ...well, I actually mean that*.

Moving on...

Seeing as most publishers have been saturating the market with badly written, ill-plotted out, basically retarded series about some supernatural something falling in love--twuuuuu wuvvvvv--with a vapid human I'd begun to believe there was no such thing as a good, or even great, YA paranormal romance.  Especially when angels are involved.  But Cynthia Hand changed my mind with her debut novel, Unearthly. 

It's funny, but Unearthly doesn't contain some magical new concept or some amazing innovative plot twist that will make your head explode.  It's just good.  That's it.  Turns out Cynthia Hand's "secret" is actually no secret at all.  She employs the method of showing her audience, not telling.  That's right, Cynthia Hand doesn't assume her audience is mentally-challenged.  Also?  Her main character, Clara Gardener, doesn't have the mental capacity of a boy-crazed, unmedicated ADHD 'tween hopped up on pixie stix.  She's normal. And by normal I mean Clara's just a regular, well-adjusted, non-angry, non-emo, non-cutting teen. Although, yeah, she has angel blood pumping through her veins, but she's incredibly easy to relate to nonetheless.    

What I love: Clara doesn't do what every other protagonist in this genre does: inform you she's super intelligent "'cuz she likes calculus-n-stuff", only to prove otherwise as she dithers about like a blind slack-jawed yokel the duration of the novel.  She's better then that.  Also?  She has a healthy yet realistic relationship with her mother.  They actually talk to each other and are, for the most part, honest with one another.  It's quite refreshing actually. 

Clara isn't the the world's only, most speshul angel-blood evuh.  She's actually one of many, though at first she doesn't know of any others beside her mother and her younger brother.  She also isn't super good at everything she does.  Clara doesn't have every boy falling for her, at least no more then your average teenage girl.  And like all teenagers she manages to make a fool of herself every once in a while. Like I said: refreshing. 

What I really love (skip this if you plan on reading this book as it is sort of spoiler-y, albeit hardly): the romance.  It's a real (more importantly healthy) teenage romance wherein the characters actually talk to one another, get to know one another before falling in love, or even liking each other for that matter. 

The guy in this book?  Is normal.  He acts like a normal teenage guy.  He's not unintentionally feminine or too-good-to-be-true.  But he's not over-the-top alpha male either.  He's just that one guy you went to school with.  You know, the guy everyone liked not because he was the hottest or richest, in fact he probably wasn't, but because he was funny, charismatic and just overall likable despite his flaws (though, yeah, it didn't hurt that he was good looking).  Yeah.  That guy. 

And when Clara gets together with him, well, they aren't obnoxious.  No gazing into one another's eyes talking about how unworthy they feel.  No waxing-poetic about perfect Adonis-like bodies and angel-like faces.  Their relationship contains actual substance.

What I don't necessarily care for: This book contains a love triangle.  Sort of.  I mean it's hardly even present.  And the protagonist isn't playing both guys for all they're worth.  And there isn't any cheating going on, not even in Clara's heart.  BUT it's still a love triangle of sorts and I'm afraid it might end badly for all involved because of various reasons I won't go into here. 

That said, even if over the course of this series the triangle does play out the way I don't want it to, I think I'll be okay. Clara has free will and I am confident she will take the time to think things through rationally.  She can choose between one or the other regardless of the consequences (good and/or bad).  In fact she pretty much makes her decision in this book.  

So yeah, I recommend Unearthly.

*Disclaimer: I would never actually hunt down and assault any author.  No matter how much they deserve it (Smeyer, James Frey, LAUREN KATE, Becca Fitzpatrick... I could go on).  There are times in which I am sorely tempted to but I wouldn't.   I'm passionate about literature but NOT insane.