The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
author’s website: Carrie Ryan
release date: March 10, 2009
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Paranormal / Zombies
length: 320 pages
overall rating: 5 Stars
*the inside flap*
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?
I saw this book and passed over it what feels like 100 times. I even read the cover a few times, but always put it back. Then, when The Dead-Tossed Waves came out last month, I loved the cover and read some good reviews, so I decided to start with the first book. And I am SO glad I did! This is an amazing story of adventure, romance, suspense, and difficult choices. Those ingredients and a fast paced plot kept me hooked! I read the last 250 pages in one sitting, and wasn’t ready for the story to end.
As this book started, there were a lot of things right away that didn’t really make sense. In the first 20 pages, you are introduced to the complicated romance situation between Mary, Harry, and Travis; Mary’s mother is infected; and you hear about the Guardians, the Sisters, and the Unconsecrated, but none of that is really explained.
The Sisters are very religious and nurse the sick, but when Mary is taken into their care, you also find that they are very strict and have a lot of rules and secrets within the walls of their Cathedral. Sister Tabitha, the “head” Sister is especially perplexing. I kept wondering if she was really as mean as she seemed, or if she was just testing Mary. It is within the Cathedral that two major characters are brought into the story: Gabrielle and Travis. While Travis is mentioned earlier, it isn’t until he comes to the Cathedral that you really understand Mary’s feelings for him. And Gabrielle – the outsider – is perhaps the ingredient that pushes Mary to question the outside more than anything else.
Mary isn’t content living within the city, and throughout the entire story, she seems to want more. But even when “more” comes, it isn’t enough. The other characters in this story aren’t completely developed with descriptions, but rather through Mary’s observations and interactions. You really get a sense of how her interactions with them has changed since childhood, and the characters even point out the fact that Mary always wants more. She is searching, but no one seems to know what she’s searching for.
Overall, this book was incredible. I’m not sure what exactly I expected when I started this book, but it far exceeded any expectation I could have had. There are a ton of ingredients that make this a great story. There is enough conclusion in this book for tie things up, but I’m excited to read the companion novel (The Dead-Tossed Waves) next!
*short and snappy*
writing: eloquent – Ryan describes everything so clearly that you are able to fall into the world she creates without realizing it.
plot: captivating – the suspense, adventure, and unexpected twists had me reading the last 250 pages in one sitting
characters: As the narrator, Mary is the easiest to understand, but her interactions with the others shows relationships that have grown and changed – even within this story
judging by the cover: The cover didn’t draw my in, but after reading the story, I get it.
miscellaneous: Amazon has a pretty great Q and A with Carrie Ryan here.