Review of “The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan

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.

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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

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11 Responses to Review of “The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan

  1. Sandy says:

    I find it curious that you weren’t blown away by this book, when it seems like a lot of people were. Which gives me a little hope, since I’ve chosen NOT to read this series for whatever reason. Honestly to me, many of “these books” all run together.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I’ve wanted to read this series for a while since the author is originally from the upstate but the book’s out of my comfort zone so I’ve been avoiding it. Now, I’m not sure I ever want to read it.

  3. Charlie says:

    You’re on a roll with these reviews, they’re brilliant! The character and story sounded okay until your discussion, but isn’t that always the way? – you think a story sounds fresh but the reality turns out to be same old same old.

  4. zibilee says:

    I bought this for my daughter when she was in her “zombie everything” stage, and she never mentioned it after she read it, which means she didn’t think that I would like it. When I mentioned it to her she just said “meh”, so coupled with your review, I can see this wouldn’t work for me. It sounds like it fits into a stereotypical box, with not much else going for it except the zombies.

  5. I’m so far behind in the YA dystopia department. I only downloaded the audio for Matched two days ago….I’m hopeless.

  6. II/IV?? SMH…I guess I won’t bother with this one and I thought it had so much promise. 😦

  7. Beth F says:

    I really liked this book. I focused on the feminist issues, which is what hooked me.

  8. Ti says:

    I’ve seen some other bloggers RAVE about this one so it’s interesting that you gave it a II.

  9. I have it 3.5 when I read it back in 2010… but now 3 years later, I don’t remember a whole lot… I was interested enough to read the 2nd book, but then stopped there… here’s my review:
    http://mentalfoodie.blogspot.com/2010/05/book-review-forest-of-hands-and-teeth.html

  10. Jenners says:

    I had read all kinds of good things about this one so I’m surprised you didn’t care for it. Perhaps I’m mixing it up with something else?

  11. Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

    I liked this book fine, but I have not been able to get through the second one for the life of me. It’s too bad, though! I wanted to love them all.

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