Here are the basics ...
Unearthly (#1) & Hallowed (#2) by Cynthia Hand
Publication date: Jan. 4, 2011 / Jan. 17, 2012
Category: Young Adult - Paranomal
Summary: Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans, but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams, everything seems to fall into place and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's human side. As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. Will Clara be ready to face her destiny? (Adapted goodreads.com)
My thoughts…The good: I've heard a lot of people say that they're sick of dystopians but personally, I've been feeling pretty wary of the paranormal. I mean, how many times can you read about vampires, werewolves, fairies and angels and still feel like it's new? That was my fear going into this series. But Unearthly completely took me by surprise. Because as much as it focused on angels, there was also an emphasis on Clara as a girl struggling to figure out who she is and what she wants. I think that balance between the two sides of Clara's world was what made it stand out for me.
Clara is part angel and aside from having supernatural powers (ability to feel people's emotions, can speak any language and oh yeah, wings that allow her to fly!), it also means she has a purpose. A reason for why she's on earth and the only clues to that purpose come in the form of visions. It's up to her to piece it all together and fulfill her destiny. But what if.. she doesn't want to accept her destiny. That's one of the major (and my favorite) themes throughout the series. Clara, who is a strong-willed and kind protagonist, is constantly struggling with questions about her life and the person she wants to be. Angel or not, I think that's something we can all relate to. She follows her heart, even when it sometimes led to some painful decisions. What I loved about her character was that as much as she wanted to follow "the rules", she also wanted to make her own choices. Which leads me to the other important aspect of the book...
The love triangle. I know I know, usually I'm all anti-triangle myself (even Clara pokes fun at the cliche) but this one worked. There's Christian, the boy from her visions, someone she feels an undeniable connection to. And then there's Tucker. Their relationship starts off on the antagonistic side (he teases her mercilessly and calls her Carrots - which is so Anne of Green Gables!) but it slowly develops into something more. We get to see both relationships progress in each book and it's a really tough choice. Because who she chooses isn't a question of who's good, who really cares for her or who could she depend on. Both Christian and Tucker are good guys, they're just different. Instead each guy represents a side of her world. Is she going to embrace her destiny or is she going to forge her own path? That's really the question here. At first I was all about Tucker (who I do love!) but Christian grew on me too. Usually I'm firmly on one team so it's a nice change to feel as undecided as Clara.
Honestly, there's so much more I want to say. There's Clara's amazing relationship with her mom, her best friends, the well thought out mythology, the twists I didn't see coming. But this review is already getting too long and I think I've gushed enough for you to figure out.. I loved this series.
(No) reservations: None come to mind although I will say that I enjoyed the second book more.
Do I recommend?: Definitely! I feel like I need to admit this. As much I love my fantasy/dystopian/paranormal books and get swept up in them, they practically never make me cry. The last time was The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa. But Hallowed actually had me shedding some tears and I didn't expect that. If you enjoy this genre, you'll want to read these books.