The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Zombie Apocalypse
Rating: 2.85 out of 5 stars
Summary: A zombie plague has encompassed the planet and Mary lives in a secluded village run by the Sisterhood who proclaim that it is the last safe haven for humans left on earth. When they come of age, a girl must either be chosen by a boy from the village to marry or join the Sisterhood. Harry, Mary’s longtime friend, is on the verge of asking her when tragedy strikes and Mary’s mother is infected. Harry’s brother Travis is the true object of Mary’s affections so she is crushed when he chooses her best friend Cassandra and Harry does not choose her at all. Unchosen, she has no choice but to join the Sisterhood – a group of nuns who live in the Cathedral and control every part of the village. Though Mary’s main assignment is to study the Bible, it soon becomes obvious that beyond religion and medicine – the Sisterhood is keeping dark secrets. When her village is breached by the Unconcecrated, Mary must choose between the village and what might lay beyond and must discover the truth about the Forest they have always feared.
I first heard of Carrie Ryan from her story in Zombies vs. Unicorns – the one with Iza and the pirates. I enjoyed the story very much, so I looked her up – turns out she’s written a whole book about zombies! And so I purchased The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Now, I love zombies. If you also love zombies, I do recommend this book. The Village Mary lives in is completely surrounded by a fence that is constantly surrounded by zombies. Beyond the fence is just The Forest – packed full of “the Unconsecrated” as they call them. The Sisterhood is a religious group of women who control the village and have told everyone that they are the last remaining civilization on earth.
Mary is one of few to know that there is more to the world outside than just the village. Her prized possession is a photograph of her great-great-great grandmother standing in the ocean. In a small village, surrounded by forest and zombies, most people don’t even believe the ocean is real, but it is Mary’s inspiration, her driving force to keep living when things seem desperate because there IS more to the world. She is sure the ocean is real and her greatest desire is to see it someday.
This book is approximately 300 pages, but I read it quickly. Mostly because I thought – If I keep reading, surely something interesting will happen! The story is a bit slow. Mary is rather dull. She’s different than the others because she dreams of a world outside, but that in itself is not that interesting. I already know there’s a world outside and I feel I have to wait way too long for Mary to find out for sure too. This book is really a romance as well. Harry and Travis are brothers – Mary and Cassandra are best friends. Mary loves Travis, Cassandra loves Harry, Harry loves Mary, and Travis loves Mary. So there’s a lot of uninteresting angst where Travis asks Cassandra to marry him because he knows Harry loves Mary, but then Harry doesn’t ask her, so she has to be a nun so…blah blah blah.
Things get more interesting as Mary discovers that the Sisterhood is hiding things. Mary sees and even talks to a girl who appears from outside the village – Gabrielle. The Sisterhood basically kidnaps Gabrielle and eventually kill her to keep it a secret that life exists outside the fence. But Mary talked to Gabrielle and she finally has the proof she always wanted that there’s more besides her village. At some point, the fence is breached, the village is hopelessly flooded with zombies and Mary, Harry, Cassandra, Travis, Mary’s brother Jed, his wife Beth, and a little boy Jacob all make a run for it through the fence – into a maze of fences that block out the zombies. There is a gated path that leads through the forest.
There’s a lot of romance angst, there’s a lot of zombies, there’s more angsting… Again, I found the book rather slow with not enough action. The zombies are really the best thing going for this book. I find Mary rather dull and not very relate-able. Overall, I did like the constant presence of fear and panic that the zombies cause. No one has a real future, there is only surviving in the now.
There is a sequel called The Dead Tossed Waves which I do enjoy more than the first book. The main character in this one is Gabry, Mary’s daughter. She is easier to relate to, her romances are more tangible, and her story more interesting. Mary’s goal is to find out the ocean exists – Spoiler: it does. Gabry is after something much more and I enjoy how the book explores how one bad decision made in a split second can completely turn your world upside down and change everything. You also learn much more about the state of the world in general, how humans are fighting back, and why they are losing.
The zombies are cool – they’re your basic shuffling, moaning zombies and once you are bitten you can turn in a few hours or at most a few days. Occasionally there are “breakers” or basically – zombies who can run. The scariest kind! I hate when they run! Breakers are born when a person turns without enough other zombies around. Which is the explanation for why humans are losing the war – one breaker can turn so many before they’re stopped.
Anyway, the book isn’t fantastic, the characters aren’t great, but if you like zombies it’s worth reading to get to the sequel, which is much more interesting. The fear that a zombie apocalypse induces in everyone is very real…and kind of awesome. Do you ever just wish it would happen already – just to shake things up?
-Mary’s just not that cool
P.S. I drank too much champagne before I wrote this – Happy Valentine’s Day!