Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan
Series: The Forest of Hands and Teeth (#1)
Genre: YA literature/ Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction/Dystopia
Published: March 10 2009
Now this is a book with a unique and rarely attempted theme. Nowadays it is commonplace to hear everyone talking about the impending zombie apocalypse and how we all need to be prepared and ready for war!! (I blame Call of Duty for that spur of excitement just there, my apologies). I mean come on! Everyone knows what a zombie is supposed to look like in the event of a disaster! Half decomposed with gangling limbs, protruding, blank eyes and never-ending moans of hunger! We always discuss that we will all have to hide out if we survive infection trying to live in a world where we will have to kill our loved ones to put them out of their misery. Many a movie has tried to interpret this and Brad Pitt’s recent one comes to mind (For shame if you haven’t watched it!) In a book however I don’t think this has been done before (correct me if I’m wrong!). Carrie Ryan has therefore done her take on this post apocalyptic theme and it is a fantastic success I must say!
The Return left them trapped in the village. But they’ve always had what they needed. The Guardians protect and reinforce the fences which keep the Unconsecrated at bay within the Forest of Hands and Teeth. The Sisters provide for them, food, a partner and a home in the name of God and they are safe. That has always been the truth. But that has never been enough for Mary. She’s never been one to just sit around and just accept the limited life she has been given. She knows there must be more to life than this caged existence. Since she was a babe her mother told her stories of a time when buildings touched the sky, men walked on the moon and a salty body of water existed spreading as far as the eye could see. What if all of that were real, she would never know what was behind those cursed gate unless she took matters into her own hands. The moans permeate the air and the forest stretches as far as the eye can see but all she wants is to leave. To see the ocean. But when the fence is breached and chaos roams, she must choose between her love and her dream, the known and the unknown and whether she is ready to bear the burden of her loved ones lives on her hands.
So I have to start off by mentioning that not once does this book mention the word zombie! Not once! So you started off the book not having any clue what it was about then get to a point where you have to pause, think and wait a minute, is this? About those? Really wow!
The Forest of Hands and Teeth is (get this!) not literally about a forest of literal hands and literal teeth! The hands and teeth actually refer to the deadly claws and teeth belonging to the mass of Unconsecrated who live within the forest. These are supposed to be all the people who were infected by the zombie virus at the beginning and the only thing that separates them from the living they need to feed on is a fence which surrounds the entire village. Those who stray too close to the fence face the risk of being bitten and if that is the case they are granted two choices, either to be killed on the spot or to be thrown to the forest. This is one of the main themes of the plot actually. Choices, decision-making and sacrifice. There is always something the characters have to choose from, be it a person, a path, a weapon or a means to survive. Something is always on the line and that’s was keeps the book exciting.
Let’s get to the characters shall we? So obviously, Mary is the main protagonist. She is the one whose questions and sometimes impatience leads to…well the plot developing into what is does. Then you have her brother Jed who at first is somewhat of an unpleasant person but then grows into someone the reader can better understand as the brother/sister bond comes into full play. To add to that you have the handsome, charming brothers Harry and Trevor who both happen to be madly in love with Mary (of course! But don’t get me wrong I love a good love triangle!). Wait it’s not over yet. Mary’s best friend Cassandra is added to the equation and you have a full-blown love drama! All together the 5 of them go through some very difficult times where they must learn to make decisions based on their guts in order to determine whether they are the last human beings on the planet.
I did feel however that although it did have some emotional moments there was not enough to get the goose bumps mounting and the tears flowing. I might take a little break before reading the next books though. However it was not what I expected and it did catch me by surprise a number of times so a fair 3 out of 5!