Author: Carrie Ryan
Genre: Science Fiction YA
First Published: 2009
Page Count: 308
Film/ TV Adaptation: No
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Note: Book 1 of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series
There’s no question that Ryan’s first novel will keep you up all night reading, even if the characters’ stories can’t match the adventure of the world the author has built.
*Haunting setting drives the story *Action packed plot
*Character relationships are poorly developed
“We forget that the rest of life can be just as dangerous. I think about how fragile we are here- like a fish in a glass bowl with the darkness pressing in on every side” Isolated from the world sits a village guarded by village soldiers, the guardians, and guided by the religious order known as the Sisterhood. For decades this village has existed behind rusting fences that keep out the residents of the Forest of Hands and Teeth which surrounds the village for miles. The zombies known as the Unconsecrated threaten the villagers daily and one bite means infection and a zombie like existence for the victim. Yet one villager, Mary, is willing to risk everything she has to discover if there is more to the world then her village.
At the start of the book, I was instantly hooked. Everything from the secretive sisterhood, to the intense love triangle, to the mysterious and frightening setting kept me locked into the story. Every page was full of nonstop action and discovery. The premise of the story was simple enough and has been done before; it’s the good old zombie apocalypse tale. But the lives of the villagers and the idea of an orderly society with secrets was weaved in such a way that made it feel new and exciting. I couldn’t help but feel for the main character who is surrounded by death and a cold society only concerned with survival.
However as the story moved on, the relationships of the characters began to negatively impact the novel. The author throws in childhood flashbacks here and there but it’s not enough to give the reader a real look into the origins of these characters’ relationships. The author also spent a lot of time in the beginning building up the main character’s values but as the story continues the values become muddled and it leaves the reader confused and slightly annoyed with the main character. At some points of the story Mary is driven completely by love and just as quickly she will become obsessed with exploration and throw away everything that she has worked so hard to gain. She never seemed to be satisfied and with each flip-flop of her mind, the reader becomes more and more confused about what the real motives that drive the main character actually are.
Although the main character is at times piteous and at other times irritating in her selfishness, the setting alone makes the story worth reading. I will read the next book not because I care about what happens to Mary, but because I want to unravel the secrets of the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Hopefully the next book will delve into the background on the Unconsecrated and how this apocalypse has affected the world outside of Mary’s village. Even my apprehension about following Mary’s life through the next book won’t be enough to keep me from the dark, lonely world that is The Forest of Hands and Teeth.