Thursday, June 11, 2009

Book Review: THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan

“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 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 into chaos, about the Unconsecreated 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?”
I picked up this book looking for a good monster story. “Ooh, look! Zombies! Drooling undead beasties that suck out your brains! Cool!
I imagine a lot of people bought this book for the same reason. But I want to warn you now – this is not a monster story. If you’re looking for a book about creepy drooling zombies that pop out and scare you, choose another book.
THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is not about the dead; it’s about the living.
More specifically, it’s about Mary’s struggle to live. She’s a hard narrator to follow through the book – lonely, determined, fearful, sometimes selfish. I found myself shouting at her from time to time, beating pillows against the novel. I found myself crying for her because I understood exactly where she was coming from. Mary is a perfectly developed character – flawed but sympathetic, compassionate but selfish, fearful but brave. Carrie Ryan didn’t slight her other characters, however. Travis is loyal to a fault; Harry is too logical and pragmatic; Cassie is simultaneously strong and very, very weak; Jed is both hard and tender… I was blown away by the depth of these characters, the fact that they were three-dimensional people living in the pages of a book.
My only complaint in this book is that the Sisterhood fell by the wayside once the fences were breached. I expected everything to tie together, but it didn’t. After the Unconsecrated invade the village, the entire book becomes about survival, and a few of the subplots suffered for that.
However, this is still a fabulous book from a fabulous debut author. I will be buying everything she ever writes, I guarantee it.

- Kristin

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