The Forest of Hands and Teeth is author Carrie Ryan's first full length YA novel. The paperback was published on 1st March 2010 by Gollancz (Orion Books) and it is 336 pages long. The sequel, The Dead Tossed Waves is already available and the third book, The Dark and Hollow places is due for release on 7th April.
The world has changed. No longer is it a civilised place but somewhere overrun by the Unconsecrated. Mary’s little village runs using a few simple rules. The Sisterhood knows what’s best for everyone, the Guardians protect the village and the Unconsecrated are a race that you should definitely be afraid of.
The only thing protecting the village from the Unconsecrated is a fence, one that separates the village from The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Mary is beginning to realise that everything is not as it appears to be and that the Sisterhood are keeping secrets from everyone. The fence is breached and the village is in complete chaos. Will she be able to figure out what is really happening before it is too late? Are there any other survivors? Does the ocean really exist? Mary has a long way to go before she can find out!
What I thought
I was not expecting everything that I got out of this book. Yes, I knew it was about zombies but if you go into this only thinking that, you are in for one hell of a surprise.
Carrie Ryan has created a world that is utterly terrifying. If the world being taken over by zombies wasn’t enough, being surrounded by the zombies is. I cant imagine what fear the villagers felt in that situation, although Ryan did a wonderful job of explaining how they felt. If I had been in that situation, I don’t know if I would have been able to cope. People always ask questions about what you would do if zombies took over the world and I think I would cower in a corner in probably die of shock or something. I don’t think I would be able to be very sensible at all.
Mary was a great character. Never does she believe that their village is the only thing that exists. As a child, her mother told her stories about the ocean and since then, Mary has always known that there is more. No matter what the Sisterhood told her, Mary was never ready to give up what she really believed in, even if it meant going against all of their rules. Even when Mary was distraught about certain things, her strength and determination still shined through. It sometimes looked as if she was beginning to give up on everything that she had ever wanted but then it was like a light bulb went on in her head and she changed her mind. Mary is definitely a fighter and I loved her for that.
Even though the village is not in favour of love, The Forest of Hands and Teeth is also a wonderful, romantic story. Mary has known for a long time that she has loved Travis. His brother, Harry seems to love her. Mary’s best friend Cass seems to love Harry. It’s all quite messy to be honest but in no way, is it complicated. Mary’s feelings for Travis are clear from the very beginning and although Harry was nice, I couldn’t help but route for this couple. Their journey and discovery of each other is not plain sailing (as if it could be with zombies around!) but it was lovely to read about. The hope that they give each other was heart-warming and I think they both needed that just to survive at times.
What I wasn’t expecting was to feel so many different emotions with this book. At times, I wanted to cheer for the characters, hoping that they would make it to their final destination and be happy. I felt sadness for some of their losses and I have to say, I cried at one point. Not quite the normal thing for a zombie book in my eyes. I didn’t mind though. These different feelings just added to my amazement and joy while reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth.
This book isn’t just about trying to survive a zombie invasion. It is also a story about self discovery, adventure and love and loss. I haven’t read many books about zombies yet but this is a series I will keep reading until the very end.