Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 2358
Angels don't have to be cheesy.
The first book in any series has the advantage of novelty. By the second book, whether or not the characters can shoot darts from their ears or speak to the dead has become a rule of the narrative rather than the narrative itself. Something else must be made of the story if the second book is to stand in its own strength.

Hallowed, the sequel to Cynthia Hand's Unearthly - a novel about a girl who must fulfill the divine purpose given her as part angel - does just that. This is not an edge-of-your-seat book. While the first had its moments of anticipation and anxiety, Hallowed mostly stays an even course, developing the characters (which were the strongest aspect of the first book anyway) rather than the fantastic elements of angelhood, and in so doing, creating a steady, compelling coming-of-age novel that has more to do with relationships than divine purpose.

When Unearthly left off, Clara had just finished messing up her divine purpose, forgoing the dictates of her visions to follow her heart instead. Fearful of the consequences, Clara explores what it means to live according to her free will rather than her calling. In the first book, we were introduced to Christian, unbeknownst to Clara a part-angel himself - the guy she's destined not only to save but apparently to be with forever. Then Tucker shows up, all normal and wonderful and decidedly NOT angelic, and the story takes a sudden sharp turn. In Hallowed, we take another turn, back to Christian, but never fully with either, because destiny and desire are only sometimes at odds, and even then not always as clearly as one might hope.

If this all sounds a bit vague, that's because largely nothing much happens in this book. It's certainly not boring. Each chapter progresses just as it ought, each character explored just quite enough, and there are certainly revelations along the way. But the revelations are rarely surprising, not because we're smarter than the characters (though we might be), but because their power is in their content, not their sneakiness. This is very much a book about Clara growing up. The question that remains at the end of the book is less a matter of "which hot guy will she end up with" (though obviously we do wonder) and more a matter of "will she grow up as she ought?"

To quote a few shining moments:

Tucker: "This isn't going to become one of those creepy situations where you show up at all hours of the night to watch me sleep, is it?"

Clara, later, in a much more obvious reference, "I did get so wigged out that I sneaked out to his house a couple times in the middle of the night to watch over him while he slept, just in case, I don't know, his comic book collection decided to spontaneously combust. This was dumb and admittedly creepy in an Edward Cullen kind of way, but it was the only thing I could think to do."

One of my favorites: "Before I moved here, I never got the whole love-triangle thing. You know, in movies or romance novels or whatnot, where there's one chick that all the guys are drooling over, even though you can't see anything particularly special about her. But oh, no, they both must have her. And she's like, oh dear, however will I choose? William is so sensitive, he understands me, he swept me off my feet, oh misery, blubber, blubber, but how can I go on living without Rafe and his devil-may-care ways and his dark and only-a-little-abusive love?"

Hilarious.

And in a not entirely anti-Twilight fashion, I could not help but notice and of course deeply appreciate the C.S. Lewis allusion in the description of heaven, which is almost exactly pulled from The Great Divorce: "I try to take a few steps away from him, but there's something strange about the grass under by feet. It's too hard. My feet don't sink into it or crush it down. I stumble and look back at Dad. 'What's wrong with the grass?' 'It's not the grass,' he says. 'It's you...'"
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