Author: Cynthia Hand
Release Date: January 17, 2012
Number of Pages: 416
Source of Book: Borrowed ARC from the very kind Heidi at YA Bibliophile
Author's Website: cynthiahand.blogspot.com
For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die 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 heart-wrenching sequel, Cynthia Hand expertly captures the all-consuming joy of first love—and the agony of loss.In this second book in the trilogy, Clara is trying to find her place in the world as a part angel (which she discovered in the first book) while reconciling the fact that she doesn't think she fulfilled her "purpose" from the first book when she went to save her boyfriend, Tucker, instead of staying with Christian (another part angel). Meanwhile, her brother is being difficult and withdrawn ever since she saw him after the fire and she has no idea why, and her mother is holding back information which is frustrating to Clara because she doesn't totally understand what is happening. While that all worries her, she is so focused on herself because of the new visions she is having and what they might mean - and which boy is and which boy isn't there. She is struggling with not only her new angel self, but her non-angel boyfriend who she truly loves, but feeling drawn to Christian and not understanding why he seems to "get" her so well and how they can communicate. So, is it a triangley romance? Yes, but it's much more than that too.
I don't want to give too much away because part of the goodness of this book was discovering pieces of information along with Clara. When Clara gets it, we as the reader start to have more pieces fall into place, and we feel along with Clara. I can say that it is heart-breaking toward the end, which the whole book is leading up to, and there were tears for me. However, Clara does learn more about her family - both biological and friend and angel - and I am left with hope that she will have the support she needs to get through anything. This book is about Clara's struggle with being pulled in two directions, and whether she can find the strength to do what she wants or what she was meant to do. It's an inner struggle of how much free will does she wants to exert.
I really enjoy the characters in these books, both main and secondary. I also really enjoy the interactions between them. I especially like the introduction of Clara's father and everything that goes along with him being in her life again. There is a little bit of snark and sass and humor to the writing that keeps me entertained and helps take away from some of the heaviness of the book. I also like the way that there are times where it seems as if Clara is talking right to us as the reader. There were some very snarkily humorous direct references to other very popular teen books and the way in which some of the characters act. Clara's asides about how she never thought she'd be "that girl" but is anyway make me laugh.
As much as I like Cynthia's overall writing style, the one thing that throws me off is how time passes in her books. This book takes place over the course of a school year, but some times have many more events and much more detail, and others don't. But sometimes I would flip to a new chapter and not realize that we had jumped forward in time so much. Because of the transitions not being there, I felt confused at some times right when they chapters started. Overall, I really enjoy this series, and will be anxiously awaiting the third book to find out what will happen with Clara now that high school is over, but I also appreciate that this book didn't end on a cliffhanger, but just me wanting to stay with Clara a little longer.