Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan

Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2009 (Hardcover)
Length: 308 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Drama/Horror
Started: November 24, 2009
Finished: November 26, 2009

From the inside cover:
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?

Once I got about halfway through this book I realized what I was really reading: aftermath of the Zombie Apocalypse! And that made this book that much cooler. Of course the author doesn't call them zombies, she gives them a fancier name (The Unconsecrated). I never thought I could read an intelligently written novel about that type of subject, but the variety and caliber of children's literature continues to surprise and amaze me.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel that's like a cross between the films 'The Village', and 'I Am Legend'. Mary grows up in an isolated village where a girl has three choices: stay with their family, get married, or join the Sisterhood. With no one to speak for her in terms of marriage, Mary's brother Jed kicks her out of their home and she begins training in the Sisterhood, but she doesn't like what she learns. The villagers are kept ignorant about the Unconsecrated and life outside the fence and the forest that surround their village. Mary wants nothing more than to see the ocean that she hopes lies beyond the forest, and it is this sole thought that keeps her going throughout the book.

This novel was immensely fun to read, campy subject matter (zombies) but also marvelously well-written. I really felt for Mary, being the girl who asks too many questions and suffers for it. Mary longs for answers that she doesn't get, even at the end of the novel. I liked the unresolved ending, sometimes they have their place in novels and it felt right for this one. I later found out this is the first book of a trilogy, so resolution will come in subsequent novels I'm assuming. The story as a whole didn't turn out like I thought it would in terms of plot and the romance element, but in a good way, because it proved this book is definitely not cliche. Mary's narration is beautifully written, the plot moves along quite quickly (which I loved), and zombies...what more could you want in a book?

Intelligently written, serious story involving zombies, need I say more?

Thoughts on the cover:
I really liked the image for the hardcover edition, appropriate and realistic. Mary has her long dark hair, dressed in garb you could believe she wore in her technologically challenged village, and no make-up on. The upcoming paperback cover has their model for Mary wearing eyeliner...hello? in a world when they force girls to be nuns and kill zombies with axes instead of guns, I doubt they had a closet full of eyelash curlers and cover-up.

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