Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (Series, #1)
Mary’s world is tightly controlled by the Sisters and the Guardians. The Sisters show the village how to find favor with God via the yearly and daily rituals. The Guardians check and maintain the fence that keeps the Unconsecrated out. The Sisters says the Unconsecrated came with the Return as a punishment to the people. This is why they must maintain God’s favor. But Mary dreams of the tales of the ocean and tall buildings her mother told her about, and her mother’s mother for generations back. She will need those dreams when her world is turned upside down with a breach of the fence. They’ve happened before, but never like this.
This is an interesting take on the traditional zombie tale. In lieu of starting with the outbreak or just after the outbreak, Ryan envisions what life would be like for the descendants of the few who’ve managed to survive. Of course the sheer number of zombies in the world means it’s impossible for the few survivors left to kill them all, so they must live with constant vigilance. In the case of Mary’s village, they’ve turned to religion to maintain the level of control required to keep them all safe. This is the strongest portion of the book as it leads to interesting questions. The threat outside the fence is indeed real. Mary’s questions are making it difficult for the Sisters to maintain the control needed and prevent panic in the village. On the other hand, the Sisters aren’t exactly being honest with the population or giving them a happy life. They’re just giving them a life.
Where the action supposedly picks up with the breach of the fence is where the book sort of left me behind. The fact of the matter is, I wound up caring more about the village than Mary, and I don’t think I was supposed to. Where I was supposed to be rooting for Mary, I found myself rooting for the community, the group of survivors. Mary’s individualism rings as starkly selfish to me in light of the very real threat around them. This is odd because generally I’m in favor of people being themselves and not necessarily following the group, but that’s different when a crisis is being faced. I found myself wishing it had read more like Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic Cranford, which is a study of a town and not an individual.
Of course, that’s not the type of book Ryan set out to write. She set out to write a book about a girl in a future where zombies are a fact of life. She writes beautifully, with exquisite sentences that read more like an 18th century novel than a 21st century one. I also am certain that the teenage audience this YA book is aimed at will be rooting for Mary in her quest to find herself and her dreams.
If you are a teen or a teen at heart looking for an adventure tale with a touch of romance, you will enjoy this book. If traditional zombies are what you are after, however, you should look elsewhere.
3.5 out of 5 stars