Mary is a teenaged girl living in a small village surrounded by high fences to protect the inhabitants from the Unconsecrated, i.e., zombies. The villagers call the world outside the fence “The Forest of Hands and Teeth.” Growing up, Mary’s mother told Mary stories about a wider world, with tall buildings and even an ocean, but no one believes these tales except Mary. And when Mary’s mother is lost to the Unconsecrated, as had happened to her father, Mary’s world becomes even more restricted:
“In my village an unmarried woman has three choices. She may live with her family; a man may speak for her, court her through the winter and marry her in the spring ceremonies; or she may join the Sisterhood.”
Mary’s brother Jed blames Mary for their mother’s fate, so he refuses to take her in, and thus she is forced to join the Sisterhood. Soon enough, she falls in love. The object of her feelings is already spoken for, however, and then, unexpectedly, a second boy speaks for her. (Females have no say in the matter.) Mary thinks her chances of finding happiness (not to mention the ocean) are gone forever. But things get even worse: the boundaries of the village are breached by the Unconsecrated, and those who can must find a way to escape.
Discussion: The author lines up the usual YA Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopia suspects: a rebellious teen girl who narrates in the first person and who exhibits both bravery and idiocy; the inevitable triangle with two boys vying for her affections; an evil female adult who stymies the heroine’s attempts at freedom; and a host of bloody, slack-jawed, drooling and moaning Undead to act as the Greek Chorus.
Does this one stand out from the rest of them? Not really, in my opinion. Mary, the main character, is a bit too self-centered and idiotic for my taste. The two boys of her triangle are both milquetoasts. World-building information is barebones, with background explanations non-existent.
Was there anything to like? Well, I have to say my favorite part is that Mary and her group, running from the zombies, keep encountering Roman numerals, and can’t figure out what they mean or how they are ordered. I could so relate! LOLOL
Rating: 2/5 Wait: Make that II/V
Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2009