Unearthly
by Cynthia Hand
(HarperTeen, $17.99, G) ISBN 978-0-06199-616-0
*****
Clara Gardner's mother is half-angel, a state that clearly makes Clara and her brother, Jeffrey, part angel also. Though both have known this for some time, until now it's been the kind of thing that's normal as long as they make sure they come across as normal to everyone else. After years of holding back, of never pushing herself, Clara now has to train, has to learn to fly, has to move to Wyoming. So begins Cynthia Hand's Unearthly.

It started with the dreams of the fire, dreams Clara would wake from with sweat drenching her and the memory of a boy fresh in her head. When her mother told her that the dreams were visions of her honest-to-god purpose in life, the two of them begin researching every clue from the dreams.

The move to Jackson Hole from the California coast elicits the expected culturally-shocked, teen-angst-driven responses, though Clara's mother has raised herself some adaptable children. Clara quickly discovers that the boy in her dreams is Christian, who not only is king of his school but dating the queen. The queen isn't too fond of the fact that Clara's trying to get close to her boyfriend. Really close. Clara's not sure, but she thinks she and Christian are supposed to have kind of relationship. One way or the other and goofy scenes aside, she has to get close to him to save him, and she knows she and Christian are in the woods together so she can be his rescuer. The only thing is, Clara can't manage to get her life organized for this scene to play out as it should and when it comes right down to it, will Christian be where he's supposed to be?

Thankfully, the entire novel does not revolve around this somewhat socially awkward girl chasing after Mr. Popularity. Cynthia Hand's heroine, Clara, is a fighter, if not in the physical sense. She's a great coming-of-age character, not Gossip-Girl pretty but normal, not a misfit but not upper-tier clique either. Clara has no designs; she understands her life and is coming to terms with the fact that it has a specific purpose, but she wants to make the best of what she's been handed with the realization that she should be grateful for what she's got. Naturally, things like learning your mother doesn't actually know everything and that your new boyfriend is not the boy the higher powers want you with hit our girl Clara hard, but Hand's novel combats these things without the emo-driven, angst-ridden melodrama that often taints novels of this kind.

I read somewhere that this is a trilogy, and though the ending doesn't quite qualify as a cliffhanger, it will leave readers wanting more wanting to know what Clara does with how things played out. Christian, Clara, and her boyfriend, Tucker, are all strong characters that readers will not soon forget, and we will want to see all three get their happy ending, regardless of whether or not it plays along with a divine plan.

--Sarrah Knight


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