Hallie's Reviews > Hallowed

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Jun 22, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, ya
Read on June 23, 2012

Okay, friends, this is not going to be pretty. Don't take this warning lightly, either.

I finished last night, later than I should have, and I have SO MANY FEELINGS. And THOUGHTS. Lots of them are contradictory too, and some of them relate to such ridiculously personal things I was imagining how I'd even try to explain why I couldn't review the book (in the event I had been reviewing it properly, which I'm not).

I'll try not to spoil anything too much for those who haven't read Unearthly, but if you haven't and you hate being spoiled, this isn't a safe review. It's going to take all my energy to write anything semi-coherent, so read the description on the GR page to get reasonable summary of book plot.

So. First thing I loved, that caused some of the churning thoughts, is that Clara's struggle to find her purpose (I can never believe it's not capitalised in the book, as it's such a huge thing) is a fantasy depiction of something that is easily related to a lot of people's experiences with life - whether it's to be true to yourself and walk your walk, to find your bliss, your journey, or to find God's will for you, it doesn't make a lot of difference. Well, it does, and I'm not trying to offend anyone, but what I mean is the struggle to find the meaning in and of one's life -- for those of us with the enormous privilege to be able to engage in anything beyond the struggle to survive - has many common elements. The fantasy element of the story removed some of the ugh factor I'd have felt otherwise about there being ONE purpose. Or ONE person, or ONE chance to be who you're supposed to be. Even with the visions, and her mother's help (such as it was) in figuring out how to prepare for her purpose, Clara is still as confused as any of the rest of us, and has to work to rediscover her purpose, to rethink what little she thought she could rely on before, and I found that very moving.

Second thing was the exploration of free will and choice in the face of (apparently) having ONE purpose for her life. This wouldn't have worked as YA, I don't think, if Clara hadn't had trouble being (apparently, again) expected to just suck it up and do what she thinks she's being told to do. Her anger with her mother and with God felt very right, but, it also felt like more than just an adolescent's desire not to be told what to do. Not to be used. I'm going to put a chunk here in spoiler space, not because there is any spoiling, but because it's the personal stuff that made me feel this so strongly, and it's not at all of interest to most anyone. (view spoiler)

I have taken away a star, and it's for a couple of reasons, some of them definitely needing spoiler cuts. First up is one of the spoilery ones. (view spoiler) Non-spoilerific version of this is that I find "If you love someone, set them free" to be an abomination for the most part - for sure in literature, if not outside it. It's too pat, too easy, and in books is far too often just the character's being scared and unwilling to give the other person the right to choose whether they'll take the risk of being with them. [did that suffice to get rid of my crankiness about this? Not sure]

Another, well, it needs spoiler space too. Drat! The book's many twists - most of which I saw ahead of time, but not always in the form in which they actually came - make it hard to discuss without giving things away. To start unspoilerifically, one of these big revelations, which was hinted at strongly, but turned out to have a surprising punch in the tail, felt insufficiently solid to me. Much too much as if it was to dazzle us all with the surprise and too little essential to the story, and more, to the characters and who they were. (view spoiler)

Then, there was the line about God's having sent the Flood to wipe out all the angel-bloods simply because there were too many of them - NOT because the angels had gone against God's will in being with humans, but just because there were too many angel-bloods. This isn't generally presented as one of those nasty depictions of God who quite cheerfully knocks off innocents, and it didn't work for me here as an explanation.

This may get even more rambling added at some point, but I'm going to end with a good (albeit one with an extra-textual caveat). There's a death in this book (says so in the description, so I'm not giving anything away), and it was very moving. The caveat is that Hand said in an interview that she hasn't seen a lot in YA dealing with the loss of a loved one. What has she been reading? It seems to me as if the only way to any kind of reasonable life expectancy is not to be close the protagonist of a YA novel. That quibbled, I found the way this death was shown to be moving, honest, and very real. I also loved that the ending gave a hopeful note for this loss, without its being one that made it feel less truthful.

Now I have all the fear about what the final book will do. At least 'early 2013' does seem to be VERY early 2013. (Also, I've probably committed serious abuse of the words "feel" and "moving". Forgive me, more literate friends!)
4 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Hallowed.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

06/23/2012 page 86
21.0% ""This was dumb and admittedly creepy in an Edward Cullen kind of way...". No wonder I like this!"

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Francesca (new)

Francesca Forrest Wow, it does sound like there's a lot there, and in addition, that the story dovetailed remarkably well with your own history and thoughts/feelings.

Hallie And, believe it or not, I cut out quite a bit before posting. :) I'd be loathe to try to make any kind of objective judgment about the book, but one thing that stood out was the author's having said that there's a lot of influence visible in the books - of C. S. Lewis, for one, and also of Eckhart Tolle. It's a very, very appealing mix to my mind. interview.

message 3: by Anna (new)

Anna It sounds interesting - I don't think it is quite for me, but I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. It is wonderful when a book brings up so much to think about, isn't it?

Hallie Anna wrote: "It is wonderful when a book brings up so much to think about, isn't it?"

It is -- something! :) Like Sara Zarr's How To Save a Life, which I read last November, and STILL haven't managed to say anything about. Couldn't be a more different book, but had the same effect - I wanted to do a 'proper' write-up and so ended up doing nothing. I don't spend all the time angsting over my 'issues', honestly. :)

back to top