Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Title: Hallowed
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperCollins/HarperTeen
Release Date: January 17, 2012
Pages: 403 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.

For months Clara Gardner trained to face the fire from her visions, but she wasn't prepared for the choice she had to make that day. And in the aftermath, she discovered that nothing about being part angel is as straightforward as she thought.

Now, torn between her love for Tucker and her complicated feelings about the roles she and Christian seem destined to play in a world that is both dangerous and beautiful, Clara struggles with a shocking revelation: Someone she loves will due in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

In this compelling sequel to Unearthly, Cynthia Hand captures the joy of first love, the anguish of loss, and the confusion of becoming who you are.


The fire happened, but Clara's defiance may have changed what was supposed to be. Now aware of Christian's secret and feeling more drawn to him as the complicated roles they are supposed to play in each other's lives become more untangled, Clara is struggling to deal with that and keep her relationship with Tucker strong. The choice between free will and duty is never easy. Meanwhile, both her mother and her brother begin to act strangely and a new vision unfolds in Clara's dreams. If what she is seeing is true, someone she loves will be dead by spring.

Wow. I... I've been staring at my keyboard for some time trying to come up with words for this book, but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say. It's been a while now since I finished Hallowed and I've been digesting its content, but putting together words to match the very emotional response I had to the novel is so difficult. Whoever says detailing an emotional response to a book makes a review invalid can shove it. The emotional response it elicits from readers is the true testament to a book's worth.

I found Unearthly to be a nice little book, fun but not overly involving, but Hallowed kicks it up many notches. The middle books of trilogies are often dull and feel like set-up for the last book, but not this middle book. It's been so long since I read such an emotionally intense book that had me laughing my head off on one page, crying like a newborn infant the next, and sobbing like someone close to me had suddenly died when I turned the last page. I can't tell you how long I sat there sobbing so hard I could hardly breathe. When I took breaks from reading, the whiplash of going from an intense book to a placid academic book was almost painful.

I was so frustrated with the characters. Frustrated at Jeffery for not talking to his family, which could have solved a lot of problems. Frustrated at Tucker's jealous streak. Frustrated at how Christian says he isn't pressuring Clara when he is with all his talk of how important they are to each other. Frustrated that Clara feels like she needs to constantly prove to Tucker she loves him when his jealous streak emerges. Frustrated at Clara's mother for keeping so many secrets. For those frustrations, I love all the characters even more (except maybe Tucker and Christian) because those little things they do that I find so frustrating make them human. Their nuanced characterization is a great improvement from the first book and much deeper than I am used to.

Clara has become one of my favorite YA heroines for her accurate voice, likable personality, and how she rings so true as a teenager. Some characters read like caricatures of teenagers or adults in a fifteen-year-old girl's body, but not Clara. She, with all her flaws and strengths and humor, is someone I could see walking down the halls of a high school, being the girl that is always walking hand-in-hand with her boyfriend in the hallway, and experiencing the true searing pain of being torn between two people. We need more heroines like her that feel real like us instead of reading as just a fictional character.

It's never been a secret that I despise love triangles. There were times in the novel where I wanted Clara to just do something about it already, but this novel handles the triangle with the depth it needs to work without being annoying, along with eliminating the limited black-and-white mentality from the equation. Between Tucker, the boy she truly loves but can't share all of herself with, and Christian, who she is apparently supposed to be with because he's just like her and involved with her purpose, there is no room for looking at this in black and white. The heart is too complicated for the way it works to be examined in such a way, and the novel taking this into consideration and making both of the love interests likable is how Hallowed succeeds where so many YA PNR novels fail.

If the novel had such a profound effect on me, why four stars instead of five? The story was so focused on Clara and her guy drama that it feels like other stories equally as interesting as Clara's were neglected. The story of her mom and Samjeeza, for instance. Jeffery's story. Angela's story. Maybe these will be expanded upon in the final book, in a novella, in short stories, or whatever, but I wanted to go back to those paths and follow them for a little while, not be forced to shuffle along on my current path.

Many of my friends read Hallowed months ago when an ARC of it was made available on NetGalley, though my own requests for the novel were denied by the publisher over a dozen times. While I enviously watched and avoided every spoiler as if it were toxic (but one still made it into my feed due to forces not in my control--thanks, Cillian), I wondered what they could be taking about when they raved about it. I was familiar with their love for all things Unearthly; their hype and my personal reading project was what got me to read it in the first place. Now that I have read the sequel, a novel they showered praise upon more heavily than they did for the first book, I can see why they felt the way they did. I feel it. Oh, do I feel it.

Unearthly was a fun little romp in YA PNR that I enjoyed specifically because it did not make me want to blow a gasket. With Hallowed, Hand ups the stakes and turned my fluffy enjoyment of the first novel into a full-blown emotional investment in the series. I'll be back for book three.

4 stars!

What am I reading next?: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott


  1. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked Unearthly. I was really glad I tried it—angel fiction doesn't sound like something I'd like.

    So I'm definitely glad to hear that you like the sequel. It sounds pretty good (excepting the vicious love-triangle; I hate those things.)

    Great review!

    Renae @ Respiring Thoughts

  2. Wow, your review of this book is fantastic. I agree with you about the love triangle. I've seen a bunch of them in other YA books but in Hallowed, it was truly worth it. It wasn't predictable and it's a hard choice to make between Tucker and Christian.

    Like you, I was also frustrated with Jeffrey. If he'd just spilled the beans with his family about you-know-what, it would've been soo much easier.

    Hallowed was really deep to me, and the story and writing was just incredibly beautiful.

  3. Tucker and Christian's love for Clara will come to be known more clearly for Clara in this book. One who loves her and one who needs her. I love Tucker, but Christian is showing more of who he is in this book. I honestly don't know who I love more, my heart was breaking for Christian in Hallowed.


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