Unearthly - Cynthia Hand 3.5 stars

Unearthly marked a lot of firsts for me:
1. My first book about angels.
2. My first book written by Cynthia Hand.
3. My first book of the year with a bizarre love triangle. More on that later ...
4. My first encounter with first person / present tense prose that didn't make me cringe with every new sentence.

Overall, Unearthly is a decent read. It didn't change my life or anything, but nothing I read gave me the urge to commit mass bookicide. So gold star to YOU, Cynthia Hand!

Clara is an angel-blood, which is what you get if you cross an angel with a human, cross their offspring with a human, and make a little super-baby. She is one-quarter angel and three-quarters regular teenage girl. Clara's unearthly, to take a cue from the title. Every angel-blood is born with a purpose beyond awesomely sprouting wings, flying, and glowing like the sun. When Clara begins to receive her purpose through cryptic visions of a beautiful boy in the mountains, her family packs up and leaves California for Wyoming so Clara can find her mystery boy. It's all very jarring for a teenager, and Clara finds herself surrounded by strangers in a land with SNOW (oh, the humanity!) and cowboys. The boy from her vision is named Christian (of course), every high school girl's dream, and Clara is drawn to him from the beginning. They share a destiny, after all. As Clara learns more and more about being an angel-blood, life gets more and more complicated. She has to keep the whole angel thing a secret from her friends. Her mother only gives Clara angel info on a need-to-know basis. And then there's the matter of Tucker Avery, Clara's best friend's twin brother, whose very presence seems determined to screw up her destiny with Christian.

I want to make something clear right now. The whole Team This / Team That phenomenon made popular by that ungodly creation called Twilight isn't my cup of tea. It's stupid, and I despise love triangles. This book is no exception. I want to punch the love triangle (or is it?) in the face when it pokes out its ugly head. Fortunately, I don't think that the Christian/Clara/Tucker dynamic is a real love triangle. Something else is up there.

But believe me when I BOLDLY TYPE that if Tucker gets thrown over for Christian, I will be a VERY unhappy camper. That's enough, YA authors. 'Kay? I'd rather read about angels than love triangles. I hope we're on the same page.

I like the way that Hand characterizes Clara. Even though she's an angel, which makes her really good at most things and pretty, Clara is still a rather normal girl. She stresses over her hair, doesn't always know how to talk to people, and depends on her girlfriends for moral support. At times, Clara can be obtuse (and on one occasion, snotty), but what kid doesn't act that way? The relationship between Clara and her mother is a great example of the mother/daughter dynamic, only on an angelic scale. Clara hates that her mom won't fill her in on details of their existence, but it's clear that the woman's only trying to protect her daughter. They even get in a fight about a boy! These normal stories interwoven into an abnormal world are a treat.

Tucker is a fabulous alternative to the emo/angst-ridden/man-boy/immortal/dark-haired/intense love interests that are showing up EVERYWHERE these days. He's the kind of boy I wanted to date in high school. Snarky but good-natured, Tucker injects Clara's life with a sense of normalcy. He works for spending money, loves the rodeo, and sometimes picks Clara wildflowers. That's kind of adorable. Plus, I knew he was something special when one of the first things he does in the book is call Clara "Carrots." Like Gilbert freakin' Blythe in Anne of Green Gables! The thought of Gil Blythe still makes me squeal like a tween. Tucker may not be Gil, but he's made a friend for life with me just for that nickname.

The story drags a bit for the first half. Hand does a nice job of setting up the world Clara lives in, the school, and her relationships, but I got a little impatient with all the high school drama. The parts where Clara follows Christian around and tries to contrive reasons to talk with him are tedious. By the second half, the plot starts to pick up. Not only do we get more Tucker at this point, but the action gets moving. Unfortunately, Hand leaves the reader with a thousand more questions than answers. Seriously. I feel like every thread was left dangling. This definitely isn't a stand-alone book, and it shows.

The big surprise at the end Christian's an angel, too!!!! OMG! didn't come as much of a surprise to me. I think I figured it out in the first 50 pages.

Since Cynthia Hand left so much unanswered, I'll probably read the next book. I want to know more about the angels and about Clara's mom. Also, 16-year-old Rachel is determined to make sure that Tucker doesn't get his heart broken. Shameful, yes, but true.