A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
UNEARTHLY (Unearthly #1) by CYNTHIA HAND (2011)
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand was published amidst a wave of YA fiction centered around angels. Along with Fallen by Lauren Kate and Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Unearthly was something of a vanguard for the angel trend. I first read it in my senior year of high school (2011), and among the deluge of angel books that had been published at the time, Unearthly was definitely my favorite.
Unearthly follows a family of angels as they try to lead a normal life in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The main character, Clara, is a quarter angel, while the rest of her is human. Her brother is also just a quarter, while their mother is half. Clara has visions of the future, and the book’s plot is based around one particular vision: A boy trapped in a burning house, fated to die until Clara swoops in to save him. Clara becomes obsessed with this vision, and the next day when she goes to her new school, she sees the very boy from her visions. The book kicks off from there, revealing a touching story about family, first love, and following your heart.
What makes Unearthly stand out from its competitors is its emphasis on family. It was rare, especially back in 2011 when this book was published, for family to play such an important role in YA novels. Clara’s mother and brother play significant parts in her life and are present throughout the book. Clara’s relationship with her mother is especially nice to read about, considering how close they are. Clara also has a few close friends she spends a lot of time with. Her life doesn’t revolve around a boy and she has interests outside of romance, which I always appreciate—especially in a YA novel.
Another unique twist Unearthly brings to the proverbial table is how the “love triangle” is handled. Love triangles are all too common in YA (though they’re much less common now than they were in 2011), and Unearthly is no exception. However, what this book does with its love triangle was so far from the norm at the time that it really impressed me. Seven years later and it still impresses me.
The boy from Clara’s vision is named Christian, and she believes her vision means that they are fated to be together. Clara isn’t happy about this, not liking the fact that her love life is supposedly being divined by God. That’s where Tucker comes in. Tucker is Clara’s friend’s older brother, and he is far from your typical YA love interest. Tucker is definitely among my favorite YA love interests because he’s unfailingly kind and respectful to his parents, as well as Clara’s mom. His relationship with Clara gets off to a rocky start at first, but once Clara decides to stop letting “fate” control her destiny, they develop into a truly heartwarming pair.
There are other things that happen in this book aside from the relationship drama, but the focus on choosing your fate and surrounding yourself with familial love is really what makes Unearthly a standout in the YA angel trend.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, you can check out a copy of Unearthly (and its sequels) at the Oreana Library today!