Sunday, February 7, 2010

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan
2009 Delacorte Press
310 Pages
ISBN 978-0-385-73681-7
Genre: Young Adult

4/5 Stars

Summary (Press Release)
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?

My Thoughts
Mary is a heroine who longs to escape the confines of her simple village life. Listening to stories her mother told her of a very different world, she grew up believing that maybe there was more to the world than the fence that protects them from the dangers outside. But on the other side of that fence lies the Forest of Hands and Teeth; a forest that houses the Unconsecrated, zombies who with one bite can turn you into one, or turn you into their dinner. They continually crash into the fence, looking for anyone who has ventured too close, causing the fence to need continuous repairs as they constantly do damage to it.

While Mary understands her duty is always to the survival of her village, which includes marriage and procreation as so many people die, she is not satisfied with the way things are. As she questions people, she also alienates them and causes them to be either frightened of her or suspicious. When her mother ventures too close to the fence one day, is bitten by an Unconsecrated, and joins them, Mary has nothing left except to enter the Sisterhood, a society which guards many secrets. The society in which Mary lives has become ultra-religious and the Sisterhood is the guardian to many secrets and is in charge of everyone's well-being. Up until this point, Mary has always seen them as being gentle and kind, but upon entering the society, she suddenly sees a different and menacing side, a side which hides dangerous secrets and does dangerous things. It is one of those secrets that sets them upon the trail of destruction.

Throughout my reading, I couldn't get M. Night Shimalayan's The Village out of my mind. While the plots are not exactly similar, the settings have an eerie similarity: isolation, danger, survival of the fittest, secrets. When Mary leaves the village (for reasons I will not divulge), she learns many things about herself, her village life, her people, and those around her. While I enjoyed all of the scenes, what I did not get a real sense of is the deep connection between the characters. I always felt like there was an emotional vacuum between Mary and Travis and Mary and Harry and Mary and her brother. There were many times I had to go on assumptions as to how Mary really felt about some of the things that happened around her. I also thought Mary was a really selfish character at times and used those around her to get her own way. While she is extremely brave, I would have liked to know more about her motives (other than going to see the sea) and what drives her. While I didn't personally like Cassandra at the beginning of the novel, I actually developed a real fondness for the strength she demonstrated and developed as the novel continued. The same could be said for Jed, Mary's brother. I really liked his character toward the end of the novel as he showed he could be strong and tough and sensitive all at the same time. Mary was somewhat more selfish in her desires and a bit whiny. I would have liked to have learned more about Harry as well as I felt he kind of slipped away and although he was present, I didn't learn anything more about his thoughts or feelings.

Although I really enjoyed the book, I was left with too many unanswered questions at the end to be truly satisfied. I am hoping that some of these questions will be answered in the next book in the series, although I understand that the next book does not feature Mary. That being said, the narrative was extremely compelling and very smartly written. I found the scenes interesting and it definitely made me think about what would happen to our own future if something devastating were to happen to our own world. It didn't help matters that I watched the movie 'Zombieland' the same night that I finished this novel. All in all, I can't wait to read the sequel.


  1. Really good review. I am anxiously awaiting the sequel although I am not sure exactly what it will be about.

  2. I have this book in my TBR pile. After reading your review I'm even more curious. LOL. I think it's going to have to move to the top.