Saturday, August 4, 2012
Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Title: Unearthly (Unearthly, #1)
Author: Cynthia Hand
Rating: 2.5 Stars
I just want to let you all know that while I'm writing this, I am also building a fort. Yes, a fort to protect me from all the boulders and bombs that will most likely be thrown my way for highly disliking this novel. It doesn't matter that my fort is made of pillows or that it contains highly flammable books inside it - the point is, I have a fort. Thus, I hope you won't attack me since...well...I have a fort!
Part 1: In Which I "Get It"
I get it. I seriously do. I get why there is so much hype surrounding this novel. I get why you all love it. I really do. Unearthly released during a time when angel novels such as Hush, Hush, Hades, and Fallen were making waves - not all good - in the book community. Thus, in comparison with those novels, Unearthly is truly a masterpiece. But, in my opinion, it's a masterpiece in the same way that Twilight is a masterpiece when compared to Fifty Shades of Grey or Beautiful Disaster. It's much better than the norm, but it isn't that good at the same time.
More about that later - back to why I "get it." First and foremost, Unearthly provides a new and unique take on angel lore. Not only is it a story that doesn't feature a teenage girl falling in love with a fallen angel, it is also a story that doesn't feature insta-love or a true love triangle. Yippee! Clara, the protagonist of our story, is one-fourth of an angel herself. In Hand's novel, angels are given a divine purpose in life that they must fulfill. As they grow into teenagers, they begin to get glimpses or visions of their purpose and must accordingly go about completing them. Thus, when Clara is given a vision of saving a handsome teenage boy from a fire, she and her family take off from California to Wyoming where she meets Christian, the boy of her dreams (literally!).
Now, let me discuss the reasons why this novel really is quite good. First and foremost, I loved Clara's relationship with her mother, who is a half-angel. While I found it to be a little too perfect at some points, it was still nice to see her mother be such an active part of her life. Furthermore, I found that Clara's apprehensions about moving, her difficulty fitting into the social scheme at her new school, and her confusion over whether or not she is meant to get closer to Christian all handled quite realistically. In addition to Christian though, we have Tucker Avery - the annoying twin brother of Clara's best friend, Wendy. Tucker and Clara's relationship took a forefront in the second-half of the novel and I enjoyed how it was never rushed and it grew through conversation and the two spending time with each other.
So, really, there's a lot to love about this book: (1) Original/Unique/New take on angel lore (2) No Missing Parent Syndrome (3) Quite realistic emotions (4) One heart-warming romance that grows through conversation. So, you might ask, what went wrong?
Part 2: In Which I Don't Fall for the Hype
You see, despite having some excellent and interesting points, Unearthly was actually a massive disappointment. I believe that this is primarily due to the order in which I read my angel books --> (1) Hush, Hush (2) Daughter of Smoke and Bone (3) Angelfall (4) Shadows (5) Unearthly <-- Do you see a problem here? No? Well, let me tell you. I read this novel after reading Angelfall and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, two of the best angel novels written. Thus, I didn't have massively low expectations for my next angel novel. Combined with the glowing ratings and hype surrounding this story, I was really expecting something great. I feel as if whenever I go into a story expecting to hate it, I love it, and whenever I go into a novel expecting to love it, I usually hate it. I had a similar experience with this one.
While Unearthly had an original premises which I found fascinating, it was extremely boring for more than half the story. It was like any other contemporary romance with Clara attending high school, fainting when she saw Mr. I-am-SO-hot-Christian, and attempting to get closer to him because she felt a romantic spark between them. Yeah, nothing unique there, huh? I liked how Clara began to learn more about her angel abilities with her angel-blood friend, Angela, but either than that, everything about this story was so typical.
Speaking of Clara, her character simply grated on me. I think this might simply be an issue of personal preference, but Clara was perfect. As in, she is an angel therefore she is literally perfect. Clara was beautiful. Clara had gorgeous hair. Clara could do any sport effortlessly. Clara could charm any guy she wanted. Clara could speak any language she wanted. Clara could do this perfectly. Clara could do that perfectly. Clara was a freaking perfect angel! I get it - I know she's an angel - but it was so silly. Why did Clara need to be perfect? I love flawed characters and while Clara was flawed in the sense that she did rebel against the laws of her angelic society and she found some things hard, for the most part, I was just annoyed with her. Furthermore, I couldn’t connect with her in the least. Clara, you have a problem? Well, guess what? Us, humans? We always have problems, so suck it up! It seems harsh, but I was extremely irritated by this quality of hers. I think it became less problematic as the novel progressed, but it was glaringly obvious – and casted Clara into a petulant light actually – for the first half of the story.
Once the half-way mark of this novel was passed, it began to pick up a little. I liked how Clara refused to be one of those girls who chased after a guy and her developing relationship with Tucker was sweet. I loved Tucker Avery - he is everything you want a guy to be. In fact, I found him to be a little too perfect actually which annoyed me ever-so-slightly. If you liked Zeke from The Immortal Rules, you'll probably adore Tucker. Yet, while I hated Zeke, I did manage to like Tucker, despite his perfection. While I found his reaction to Clara's angel background and his acceptance of certain actions they were forced to take during their relationship very unrealistic and too convenient, it was still bearable. Yet, I was rolling my eyes the moment the word love popped into the picture. Yes, Clara and Tucker did like each other, but love? Puh-lease, give me a break! Furthermore, Clara still felt drawn to Christian which was simply irritating. I know she chose one of the guys, but it felt as if the plot still had love-triangle potential, which made me want to run away screaming.
While Tucker is a complete gentleman, Christian is a total jerk. Yes, I mean it, a JERK. While he did perform a rather inexcusable act on the night of prom, it was even worse before that night when he refused to be seen in Clara's presence around his friends. I hate guys like that and Christian, no matter how HOT he may have been, was no exception. Furthermore, I found the fact that Clara was so obsessed him to be rather startling and boring. I didn’t care about Christian. I didn’t understand how dating Christian was going to help her solve her purpose. I didn’t even understand why her mother was being such a stickler about her dating anyone but Christian. Somehow, I never felt the seriousness of this whole purpose. Yes, I got that it was Clara’s fate or destiny, but that actual sense of urgency that should have sent my heart rate up and made me sit on the edge of my seat with panic and worry? Uh…yeah, that was missing. Majorly.
While Unearthly began to wind down, we had an extra sub-plot of a fallen angel thrown in. Notice the key word: sub-plot. As in, not the main focus. In fact, it was so miniscule that I’m confused as to what role it even played in the plot of this story. In addition, the ending of this novel was nowhere near as shocking as other readers had extolled. It was not such a major plot twist and I, for one, was unimpressed by it. If anything, I’m annoyed with the ending of Unearthly. It leaves a lot of loose threads hanging, makes the reader question what exactly even happened during those last thirty-five pages of action, and wonder whether picking up the sequel is even worth it. Yes, that’s right. 35/435 Pages of this novel were action. What were the other 400 Pages devoted to? High School. Prom. Romance. Flying. Teen Angst. Jerks. Just your usual, run-of-the-mill, dramatic teenage novel.
In conclusion, while there is a lot to love about this book, its execution falls flat. Its characters are way too perfect, its romance is both convenient and not love even though it claims it is, the action its premises promises is miniscule, it throws in random sub-plots that only serve to make the reader confused and need to pick up the sequel in annoyance, and the few characters who are not perfect are simply annoying, irritating, or serve no purpose to the story. I like the idea of Unearthly and I like its writing and even the outline of its characters, but when you dig deeper and really analyze this novel, it’s nothing much but a standard Young Adult Paranormal Romance paraded around under a cover of hype, false originality, and very little true action to compensate for its flaws.
Now, the million dollar question is... will I read the sequel? I think… no. While it probably will be a quick read, much like Unearthly was for me, I don't think I'm up for another dose of this world. I simply don't care for the characters enough and while some readers claim the sequel is better, most lowered their ratings ever-so-slightly, which means I will probably wind up giving HallowedOne Star. I think I'd rather just avoid writing that snarky review, thank you very much. Would I recommend Unearthly? If you haven’t read Angelfall orDaughter of Smoke and Bone then yes, I would. For you, it’ll be a unique and utterly compelling read. I, however, was disappointed and extremely unimpressed by this one. With that, I am off to hide under my impenetrable fort - let the boulder-throwing begin!