The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I liked this a lot better than I was expecting to, after reading some very mixed reviews about it. But I loved the whole idea behind the story and was very quickly immersed in this world. When you hear "zombies" you always think of the characteristic stumbling drones with arms outstretched coming to eat your brains. Ok- yes, this book has zombies in it- but it doesn't feel like the ridiculous comic/ cartoon zombies- they feel like a very real threat, and it feels that the world is genuinely in danger of extinction from this virus/plague. The tension and fear is always there throughout the book.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth reminded me a lot of that M. Night Sharmalarmarlarmarm film 'The Village'. You have this very isolated village in the middle of a forest, surrounded by these monsters, unaware of the world beyond the fences, where the people have fallen back into very traditional ways. There are the Guardians who patrol the fences to keep the village safe from "The Unconsecrated", and the secretive Sisterhood who hold all of the records of the histories. Everyone is trained to fight or run and hide on the treetop platforms if the alarms sound signalling that the fences have been breached. For a long time you don't know if this book is set in a futuristic post-zombie-apocalypse world, or if things have always been this way, because it initially has a very oldy-world feel to it.
The main character in the book, Mary is very strong, and always courageous, but also susceptible to wallowing in despair when things get very tough- as anyone would in the situations she finds herself in. Her dream is to see the ocean, told of to her in stories by her mother- stories which almost everyone else now believe to be myths. After the breach of the fences, when the Unconsecrated pour into the village Mary escapes into the forest with her childhood friends Cass, and two brothers Travis and Harry. Following the paths in the forest, Mary is the only one who pieces together the clues of the numbered paths and snippetts from overheard conversations of the Sisterhood. All the time not knowing if there is anywhere to head to, or if they are they the only ones left alive as they have always been told. Following her dream of the ocean Mary battles down the paths of the forest fighting the undead, hunger, thirst, hopelessness, and trying to sort out her feelings for the two boys- loyalty, love or duty? Throughout the constant fear and despair woven into the background of this story is also a beautiful love story, and a tale of a girl trying to find herself, and find happiness.
I loved this book because it felt so different from anything else out there. It also felt desperate, and lonely, and full of hearbreak and tension and loss. It also felt very real to me (despite the zombies), and like these situations could really be happening. The story kept me gripped all the way through and rooting for these characters, and for a happy ending. This is not your typical zombie invasion story and I would definitely recommend this book.
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