Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Unearthly and Hallowed

Looking for a great YA read? Look no farther. Lacey Kwak-Simon, who works at Inklings Book Shop in Yakima, Washington, submitted the following review for the local paper. Many thanks to Susan Richmond, Inklings owner, for allowing me to re-print the review.
Clara, the protagonist in Cynthia Hand's novel "Unearthly," smells smoke and has strange visions of a mysterious boy in the woods who will soon be engulfed by a forest fire. With this recurring vision, Clara, who is part angel, now has to get ready for her purpose in life. But when her family packs up everything and moves to Jackson, Wyo., she is totally unprepared for what her new life holds for her.
With each vision, she discovers that not only is she supposed to rescue this mysterious boy, Christian -- stunningly handsome, super-sweet and every girl's dream guy -- but she feels as though they are meant to be together. Although she knows her destiny is entwined with him, she finds herself falling for Tucker, a well-rounded cowboy and perfect gentleman.
In Jackson, Clara finds new friends, more "angel-bloods" and a new-found love for the outdoors, which she explores with Tucker. She also learns to fly and takes a short trip to hell with a dangerous Black Wing, or fallen angel. But none of that compares to the hardships and the life-changing moments before her vision becomes reality.
Grief surrounds Clara in "Hallowed," Hand's follow-up to "Unearthly"; it fills her and weighs her down as she walks. As she dreams, she wonders what causes such pain and sorrow. Then a hand takes hers that is so familiar. Her heart skips a beat, and her breath catches in her throat, and the sorrow lessens. Christian. Always Christian.
It seems like Clara's path is already chosen. She has learned that her purpose may not be a one-time event, but continues to develop on a path she is not willing to follow. She has chosen Tucker and always will, but that may not be enough. Christian lives on the fringes of her life; he knows and understands what she is going through, better than she may know herself. She will be forced to choose between the two of them, but can she do it?
As Clara matures, her powers start to develop. She also discovers a support system of new friends and allies with whom she is able to face the return threat of Sam, the Black Wing, and a time of unspeakable heartache. Clara learns more about her family and realizes that she does not know them as well as she thought. Her mom starts to open up about her past and her own purpose and her distant father comes at a time of need.
When I was younger, we went to Yellowstone National Park as a family and loved it. I also passed through Jackson, Wyo., just a few months before I got "Unearthly" as an advance read. So the moment I picked up the first book, I fell in love. I could picture myself in the setting; walking under the ark of antlers, shopping at the little specialty stores, hiking up to a waterfall. I couldn't get enough of the book and I became a huge fan of Tucker. I was a little jealous of Clara. I still kind of am.
One reason these books came to life for me was that the characters were really well-developed and had great personalities. I enjoyed getting to know them. The plot really hooked me from the beginning and kept me engaged and wanting more.
Normally when I read an amazing book, I can't devour it fast enough. I need to know everything right then and there. But with these books, I savored them and took my time. They are truly amazing, and I want the story to last forever.

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