(Cover picture courtesy of Carrie Ryan’s website.)
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 that 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 in to 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?
Zombies, romance and death…what more could you ask for in a post-apocalyptic book? As it turns out, a lot more than what The Forest of Hands and Teeth has to offer. In Carrie Ryan’s debut novel, Mary (the book’s main character) wants more than what life in her isolated village has to offer. But when her mother is bitten and her village is overrun by zombies (which are called the Unconsecrated to avoid the z word), her life is turned upside down and she must make a choice: to stay in her now zombie-infested village or go forward to an uncertain destination deep in the Forest.
I have not yet reviewed a book in which one line in it sums up the entire novel: “You’re selfish to want to sacrifice all of us for your own whims.” (Cass, page 144) If Mary is one thing, it is selfish. I have rarely read a novel in which I cannot identify with the protagonist, but The Forest of Hands and Teeth is an exception. Mary wants more in life, but she is willing to sacrifice people she loves to reach her dream of seeing the ocean. To me, that seems pretty selfish and it feels like she is always the exceptional character in the novel. She gets attacked by zombies without being bitten, runs through the Forest and scales down a sheer cliff without getting picked off by falling zombies and is the only one to know the truth about the Sisterhood and all its secrets.
Carrie Ryan’s world-building is also lacking. Mary’s village is completely closed off to Outsiders, yet there seem to be no unfortunate genetic implications, even after several generations. Also, the story of how the village came to be is a bit unbelievable to me because it was established during the apocalypse for future generations. If there was a zombie apocalypse, your first concern would likely be your own survival, not the establishment of a village filled with enough supplies to last for generations.
Despite the character and world-building faults, The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a fast-paced, page-turning novel with a few interesting insights into what could happen when a village is completely cut off from the rest of the world.
I give this book 2/5 stars.