Unearthly  - Cynthia Hand A very solid 4.5 stars.

After finishing Hyperion and being blown away, I needed something to cool down my synapses before I jumped into heavier books. This book was something that I refer to as junky brain food, a quick bite into something (hopefully) sweet that coats the big void following a mind-blowing novel--or an appetizer before embarking on a 1000-page reading marathon. I didn't have much expectations for the book, only the hope that I wouldn't be severely disappointed, like some other misguided YA ventures (see Smokeless and [b:Daughter of Smoke and Bone|8490112|Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)|Laini Taylor|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51H3cCkRUJL._SL75_.jpg|13355552]). But I honestly think this is probably close to being one of the best angel novels out there, and quite frankly sets a standard for good teen paranormal romance.

The book revolves around angel-bloods, particularly Clara, who is 1/4 angel and 3/4 human. All angel-bloods have a sort of obligation called the purpose that they must fulfill. For Clara, the purpose arrives in the form of visions and dreams of a boy caught in a forest fire. Clara's mother, who is also an angel-blood, moves the family from California to Wyoming, the site of the future forest fire, to help Clara realize her purpose.

The best thing about this book is the protagonist. She's a strong, likable, and realistic girl, despite her being supernatural. She isn't stupid or disgustingly selfish. Sure, she loses her way sometimes and is subject to crushes and insecurities, but what teenagers aren't? The difference between Cynthia Hand's handling of teenage problems, like being the new girl in school or crushing on a boy who is already taken, is that the situations are realistic and relatable.

Another aspect of the novel I liked is the portrayal of Clara's mother. In many of the YA books I've read, parents are either ornaments in the background, not really a part of anything but simply there to offer a semblance of normalcy, or they are pests that forbid the protagonist from doing what she wants, or they are simply out of the picture. Hand, I think, really captured the mother-daughter dynamic really well; while I was reading over some scenes, I actually thought, "This is an example of good parenting." Not everything is handled perfectly, but the healthy relationship between parent and child is something that doesn't get much focus in YA lit.

Speaking of healthy relationships, finally a book where the love interest isn't some total bad boy asshole who displays his "affection" by treating the protagonist like crap. Don't get me wrong, the two love interests are both very attractive and popular, but at the very least, the relationship between Clara and her boy is one where both treat each other with respect. No obsessive stalking or instalove in the form of physical attraction. Well, for the most part.

Also, the author's descriptions of Wyoming were fantastic. I've never even thought about Wyoming before reading this book. Now I want to buy a vacation home there! Also, the scene where Clara is learning how to ski... Well, I'm an avid skier and that scene made me start planning a ski trip for February.

The story developed at a steady pace. Each chapter kept me guessing at what would happen, and the plot twist at the end was definitely not something that I would have fully predicted. Overall, the story was engaging.

The only criticism I have for the book is that it's not self-contained. The angel mythology is quasi-developed, but I sense that this is more because we've only just "scratched the surface" of the story rather than a lack of planning on the author's part. The story itself develops smoothly and the resolution is clean, but there are so many unanswered questions that it's quite obvious that this is another series book. But, in all honesty, I'm more curious at the open plot threads than annoyed.

I will definitely be buying the next book of this series, even at full price. (I bought this for $0.99 on Kindle, so get it while you can!)

4.5 stars and very highly recommended!