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Monday, April 25, 2011

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Ok, so I know dystopian is pretty popular right now…but even though I’m not a very squeamish person…Dystopian makes me squeamish.  It creeps me out.  I’m pretty sure the last dystopian I read (and possibly the first) was Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale, not that I knew what dystopian was at the time.  But I definitely knew it creeped me out.

But I started hearing blogger buzz for Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and when I noticed that even the authors I was following were reading it…well, I decided it had to be worth a try.

And It. Was. Worth. It.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, besides being one of the creepiest titles ever, and simultaneously setting an ominous mood, is the story of Mary, zombies, and the not too distant post-zombie-apocalyptic future.

Mary is in love with Travis.  Unfortunately, Travis’s brother, Harold, likes Mary.  And Harold asks Mary to the Harvest Celebration, so Travis asks Mary’s best friend, Cassandra.  Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal, but in Mary’s world, going to the Harvest Celebration together is like telling the world your engaged.  And while Mary is taking in all this news that’s going to affect the rest of her life, her mother gets too near the village fence and is infected by one of the Unconsecrated—an infection that will kill her mother, right before turning her into a zombie, and setting in motion events that will change Mary’s life.

Her mother is a zombie, so should Mary:
a)      Marry  a boy she doesn’t love, and have lots of children to ensure the survival of their village
b)      Become a nun and join the revered Sisterhood
c)       Leave the village for a life of death, dismemberment, and become a zombie, herself—One of the Unconsecrated?


But, suddenly, events take a turn before Mary makes a decision, and now it’s a matter of survival.  If any of them are left at the end, then Mary can decide who she loves.


When the book first started, I was expecting a love triangle.  Ok, yes, I read the zombie/dystopian part of the description, but I guess I’ve just got that YA/romance genre hardwired in me, and I look for it no matter what I’m reading.  But it wasn’t as simple as a love triangle, or a square, or any other kind of diagram I could come up with.  Because I don’t think Mary is really in love with Travis, but she’s definitely got a crush on him.  When she gets to know both Harold and Travis, she finds things to like in both of them, but I never got the feeling that she ever really loved either of them.  Oh, and they were being chased by zombies, which may have had some influence on the matter.

The more I got to know Mary, the more I realized that her family; her lost father, her infected mother, and her estranged brother, were the people that Mary really loved.  And the reason Mary couldn’t choose, was because the choices sucked—Mary’s family had a legend, a story about a place called the OCEAN, a place where water went on forever and the Unconsecrated couldn’t touch it.  And unlike the rest of her village, Mary had hope that the OCEAN existed, hope that there was a place they could live without fear of the Unconsecrated.  Mary wanted to leave, all right, but she wanted to survive more than anything else.  So even if leaving the village was a choice, she wouldn’t have left for certain death.  And if no boy would speak for her, then Mary would join the Sisterhood, even if it meant wilting away inside the dour Cathedral walls.  If she couldn’t have Travis, Mary would have settled for Harold.  If Mary couldn’t get to the OCEAN, then she would do whatever she could to survive, and live her life to its fullest.

But when the opportunity presents itself, when Mary thinks there might be something more, that maybe the OCEAN  really is out there, really real; Mary does everything within her power, fights tooth and nail, to get there, to follow her dream.


Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth gave me the same kind creeped out kind of feelings as I got reading The Handmaid’s Tale, or watching M. Night Shyamalan's The Village—gripping from beginning to end, but with a differenceMary always had that one kernel of hope—The worst had already happened in Mary’s world, in Mary's village, to Mary's family, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t get MUCH. WORSE.  And still, I kept hanging onto that one kernel of hope; the OCEAN.  Also, I loved Ryan’s explanation for how zombies took over the world, that scientists were experimenting with creating immortality—and that it could both work (in a very twisted sense), and also go terribly wrong at the same time.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth was a suck-you-in and hang-on-for-the-ride riveting read and I can’t wait to pick up the rest of the series; The Dead-Tossed WavesThe Dark and Hollow Places—And also Ryan just released a prequel, Hare Moon—a standalone ebook about Sister Tabitha’s story.










p.s. I got to meet Carrie at the Romantic Times Convention in L.A. a few weeks ago and just want to say how incredibly nice and awesome she was!!!  (not to mention her super-cute curly haircut!!!)









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