The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
In the middle of the Forest of Hands and Teeth there is a small world within a giant fence. In this village the people have always known three truths. The Unconsecrated will never cease in trying to breach those walls, that the Sisterhood and the Guardians will do whatever necessary to protect the people, and that there is nothing beyond the walls but legions of the undead.
Mary is a girl who believes otherwise. When she grew up her mother told her many stories about the ocean, a vast body of water that Mary longs to see. When her mother becomes Unconsecrated, an undead person who feeds off of human flesh, Mary loses her faith in God and begins to ponder what is actually out there. This only increases when her brother, Jed, casts her out to the Sisterhood because no man has claimed her as his intended.
Within the Sisterhood Mary’s suspicions are confirmed. Her superior, Sister Tabitha, becomes reluctant to let Mary out of her sights for fear that the inquisitive girl will discover things she shouldn’t. And Mary’s curiosity is only exacerbated when a young girl named Gabrielle comes to the Sisterhood…from outside of the fences. Mary vows to do whatever it takes to find out what lies beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth.
Mary is such a driving character. I have read mixed reviews about people liking and alternatively not liking her. Some people thing she’s strong, some selfish. Some find her losing her faith upon witnessing her Mother’s return to be a difficult thing to understand. I found the view point from a character of non-faith refreshing, since it lent itself to her strength within the story so completely. Mary has her moments of guilt, doubt and despair just like a person of faith would except in her moments of doubt she wonders if she is offending a God that she doesn’t believe in. This is a very refreshing view point for apocalyptic/dystopian novels as many people still cling to their faith no matter what and only doubt when they are at their end. Mary puts her faith in the ocean, in her mother’s stories, and this becomes an entirely new fervor that is fun to read.
Clearly for me this was a real interesting read. Absorbing and compelling… I’m usually not one for zombie books but a good story will get me every time. And this was a great story. Chilling and disturbing, though truth be told I found the religious aspect of the novel much more gripping and terrifying than the zombie attack moments. I couldn’t wait to get to the end, to get answers… to learn how this whole world came to be. But unfortunately alot of what went on prior to the Unconsecrated was unexplained until the next book in the series (“The Dead-Tossed Waves”, Spring 2010). This is great that there will be a new book, and within the mythos of the storyline the unexplained plot point works well… But I really want to know what happens and I am terribly impatient to wait until next year to find out more! Grrr.
Still, a great start. I will be reading the next one.
-Krys Tourtois, Eastwood Town Center