Friday, December 10, 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Book Jacket

 In Mary's world, there are simple truths.  The Sisterhood always knows best.  The Guardians will protect and serve.  The Unconsecrated will never relent.  And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village.  The fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But slowly, Mary's truths are failing her.  She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power.  And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.

Now she must choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her.  And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth.  Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?


I forced myself to wait a day between finishing Ryan's book and reviewing it, but still I can mostly only flail.  I have never been a fan of zombies, and I have never read a book or watched a movie about them.  I knew Forest of Hands and Teeth was getting rave reviews, but I was fully expecting to be underwhelmed.  I was so wrong.

Even if I was ambivalent about zombies, I am so into books where all seems lost, and the stakes are incredibly high, and yet the protagonist pushes forward in the hope of overcoming.  And that is even better when the protagonist is a girl, because just sayin', that is rare in our media.  Even better better, when the girl protagonist who fights on manages to do so while being a grounded, flawed person, not some hyped up super-chick.  And Mary is flawed and selfish, but she's also curious and determined and she doesn't give up hope on the people she loves. 

But I can't ignore the fact that this is a book about the world after the zombie apocalypse.  And you know what?  I actually like zombies.  Not the zombies themselves, with their shuffling and their disgusting gaping wounds.  But I love the metaphor.  Some of my favorite moments in the book were when Mary makes self-aware connections between the insatiable desire she has for a boy, or her relentless pursuit of finding the ocean with that same all-consuming desire that fuels the zombies' attack.  Nicely done, Ms. Ryan.

One more thing.  I am sick of love triangles, and I'm sick of "love will save me from everything!" storylines so often found in YA.  So when Forest of Hands and Teeth veered into love triangle land, I was resigned to the same ol' same ol'.  But I was so wrong.  I will not say why, because I don't want to spoil.  But my hope is restored in YA books dealing with love in honest relationships, and hard choices, and personal priorities.

My heart is shattered from reading this book, and I don't know how Ryan will ever put the pieces together again, but there are two more books in this series, so I guess maybe there's hope.  (There's always hope, as Mary knows.)

Continued by The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places.

Five out of five stars.

Release Date:  March 2009
Reading Level:  Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL RYA


  1. Great review! I've been meaning to pick FHT up along with some other books, but I have to wait for Christmas bookstore gift cards to come in.

  2. I loved this book!! And I loved The Dead-Tossed Waves even more. PS I found your review because Carrie Ryan tweeted that it made her happy! :)

  3. Ok, here goes my 2 cents.

    "Carrie's portrayal of an apocalyptic world filled me with dread and despair. Grief is one of the strongest human emotion only next to love and Carrie has done a wonderful job of making the reader feel both.

    Mary's role as a Protagonist moved me here. Her relentless search of the ocean can be idolized to many of the complex emotions we feel as we strive to reach for that something better.

    The love triangle that she is casted in held and piqued my interest enough to prove false my predictions. The underlying message that we need to make some really hard decisions is well described.

    Lastly I would recommend this book to mature teens who can handle flesh eating unconsecrated.


  4. Sapna, I love your last sentence! For "mature teens who can handle flesh eating unconsecrated". Very true. :)

    I liked your mention of both love and some extent, they are really the same emotion expressed in different circumstances. I hadn't thought of that until you mentioned it.

    I like your opinions--please keep commenting!