by Cynthia Hand
I must confess that I haven't been a huge fan of the gradual shift in paranormal romances from vampires and werewolves to including angels... so I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy this one. But, the cover was really captivating, and any online images I've seen of the cover simply don't do it justice. I was pleasantly surprised. A lot of angel fiction features a perfect, yet brooding, male angel. This story stars a teen who feels the pressure to be perfect, but knows in her heart she's anything but.
Sixteen-year-old Clara Gardner finds herself whisked off to rural Oregon when a series of visions reveals that she has a purpose... she is a quarter-angel, from her mother's side. It seems that she is meant to rescue a handsome young man from a forest fire. Arriving in town, she soon finds him, a classmate at her new school, named, appropriately enough, Christian. While she's immediately drawn to him, she knows that she's got a lot of work to do if she wants to get to the place she sees in her vision. She needs to improve her flying, and get good enough that she can carry a person to safety, not an easy feat, considering she's only just discovered her ethereal wings, which appear or disappear at need.
Clara's younger brother Jeffrey is none-too-pleased about having his life disrupted, and with burgeoning angelic powers of his own, he finds it impossible to resist using his superhuman strength to nab a spot on the high school wrestling team. Clara finds an unexpected ally in Angela, a half-angel at her school whose drive to discover everything she can about her heritage opens Clara's eyes to some of the intrigues that are going amongst the angelic elite.
Make no mistake, this is a love-triangle book. Clara is pulled between distant, mysterious Christian whom she thinks she's "supposed to be with" and surly, yet loveable, redneck Tucker. I loved how gradually the story revealed various facets of each of the boys, leaving the reader equally torn between Team Christian and Team Tucker.
Most of the angel-lore in this book is original and well-thought out. The Christian god is distant and unknowable, with the angels left to battle amongst themselves for power. Pure angels are male-only, and their offspring by human lovers are almost always female. I hated that the angels wings changed color depending on their allegiance: white for good, black for evil, with many shades of gray in-between. There seemed to be something subtly racist about this. And, I hated that Clara's decision to save lives, which slightly alters the events that she's seen unfolding in her vision is somehow accounted evil, causing her wings to turn ashy gray. There is a real art to writing a book with an ending that is simultaneously satisfying, yet leaves you wanting more. There's a very surprising twist at the end, which I shan't spoil, but it makes you question everything you've read before. And there are so many important questions left unresolved... I can't wait for the sequel, Hallowed, due out sometime in 2012. In the meantime, check out this amazing book trailer.
I borrowed this book from the library.
I read this book for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.