08 August 2009

Review: Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

What it is like to live in a world where humans can be infected by a virus more horrifying and more virulent than the plague, the 1918 flu, or HIV? Just one bite from the ever-hungry Unconsecrated, and the victim will arise after death to walk the Forest of Hands and Teeth, searching for living flesh and blood. The only path to utter finality is to be beheaded.

Mary lives in such a world in a small village, surrounded by the forest, ruled by the Sisterhood, and protected by the fences. Although Mary's mother told her fanciful stories of the ocean and of tall buildings, the girl knows her life holds only one of three futures: get married, live under the protection of her family, or join the Sisterhood.

The day her mother strays too close to the fences that keep out the walking dead and becomes infected, is the day that Mary's life is set. By the time her mother dies and then rises to join the Unconsecrated, Mary has missed the chance for a husband and her brother has turned her out of her family home. Nothing is left but to enter the Sisterhood and surrender her free will to the sisters.

Mary, however, finds it difficult to submit, and the more she learns about the Sisterhood and the more she explores the cathedral, the more she questions what she is told to believe. Before Mary can reconcile her personal beliefs and dreams with the order's doctrines, she stumbles upon a secret that reveals a fundamental truth about the world.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is more than a simple zombie story. Although the basic plot may not offer many surprises, the novel combines interesting characters and good action with larger philosophical questions. Admittedly, the book is not going to change your life, but it is ultimately a story about choices:

The only true thing that separates the living from the Unconsecrated is choice, free will. (p. 9)
Mary stands out because she seeks those choices, questions those choices, and then consciously and purposefully makes her choices. She is not about blind faith; she's not fatalistic. She holds on to hope and is not afraid to take a chance. Would you have the strength and courage to follow your dreams no matter what the cost?

The audiobook was brilliantly read by Vane Millon. Millon's work on this book is simply outstanding and is not to be missed. This is what narration is all about: storytelling rather than dramatization. I am sure that my rating of the novel is heavily influenced by the audio production.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is the first of a trilogy. According to Carrie Ryan's website, the second book, The Dead-Tossed Waves, is due in the spring of 2010 and the final book a year later.

Published by Random House Children's Books, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780385736817
Challenges: What's in a Name, Support Your Library, 100+, 999
YTD: 61
Rating: A


Unknown 8/8/09, 11:34 AM  

I didn't think I'd heard of it before - I thought I'd missed something on your blog, but now I've read your review I will try to get a copy.

Robin M 8/8/09, 11:50 AM  

I like the sound of this book. Will have to read it. Thanks.

Sandy Nawrot 8/8/09, 12:12 PM  

Carrie at Books and Movies has been raving about this. Is it YA? What would you estimate the age range?

serendipity_viv 8/8/09, 12:29 PM  

I have heard such rave reviews about this. I am hoping to read my copy soon.

Kailana 8/8/09, 1:47 PM  

I loved this book. So happy that you did, too! I am impatient for the sequel...

Lenore Appelhans 8/8/09, 1:52 PM  

This is the first I've heard of a THIRD book! These series are making me crazy!!

Carrie K. 8/8/09, 4:34 PM  

I loved this! I may have to do a re-read with the audio version, though, after your rave review!

Julie P. 8/8/09, 7:19 PM  

I never would have picked this up, but I think your review has piqued my interest!

Nely 8/8/09, 7:57 PM  

I will be reading this within the next couple of of weeks. I'm excited to get to it. Great review.

Alex the Girl 8/8/09, 10:50 PM  

Someone already asked, is this YA? I'm on the hunt for good YA now that I'm back at work. This sounds good.

The Obsessive Reader 8/9/09, 12:46 AM  

Thanks for the review, which is great. I've seen and heard about this book but I wasn't too keen on giving it a try but now I'll have to pick it up if I see it.

J.T. Oldfield 8/9/09, 1:19 AM  

This sounds awesome! I trust it doesn't get a M. Knight Shamalan (SP?) "The Village" ending, right?

Beth F 8/9/09, 5:35 AM  

Alex: yes, this is YA.

J.T.: I'm not going to tell you the ending!

kay - Infinite Shelf 8/9/09, 11:40 AM  

I loved this book too! It was a nice surprise. I agree it was predictable, but the way the story developed was interesting. Reading it was very close to watching a movie, so I can imagine an audio version of it would make for great storytelling!

vvb32 reads 8/9/09, 11:20 PM  

i liked this review of the audiobook version. i'll have to give it a listen as i liked the read.

Meghan 8/10/09, 6:01 AM  

Glad you liked this one! I am meaning to read it, but I'm trying to wait until my library gets a copy.

Melissa O. 8/10/09, 6:07 AM  

Somehow I still haven't read this book, but your review has made me want to look for the audiobook now. Great review!!

Melissa 8/10/09, 2:01 PM  

This is not my usual style of book at all, but your tweets about the audio version got me interested. I started listening last week and am really enjoying it so far! The narrator is really good.

Anonymous,  8/10/09, 2:55 PM  

I've had this on my to-read list for a while. Maybe I'll see if the library has it on audio. Thanks for the review.

bermudaonion 8/11/09, 10:14 AM  

Wow! I've been wanting to read this book since the author is originally from the area we live in - you've convinced me that I need to get the audio version. Great review.

Belle 8/11/09, 1:15 PM  

I have been wondering about this book - wasn't too sure whether it was right for me. But I love audios with great narration, so I might pick this up in audio.

Michelle 8/11/09, 2:08 PM  

This was one of the first books in the YA genre I read and I really enjoyed it. I was surprised at how much depth there was (though not any more given all the YA I've read since) and how much real meaning there was to Mary's decisions. Of course they were formulated in a relatively unrealistic was (ie: zombies and all that).

I found it to be a very interesting and entertaining read.

SuziQoregon 8/11/09, 2:13 PM  

I just skimmed your review because I plan to read this soon. I'm happy to hear you liked it as much as you did. Makes me want to read it that much sooner!

Jen - Devourer of Books 8/11/09, 6:39 PM  

Ugh, I'm so mad I ended up returning this to the library unread. I'm off to go request it again right now!

Ana S. 8/11/09, 7:59 PM  

I'm sure I'm going to love this book! Why don't I have it yet? Stupid book buying ban :P

Anonymous,  8/13/09, 11:10 AM  

I'm not usually attracted to zombie stories, but you've made this one sound good!

Glad you found your award on my blog. I was in Denver when it posted and haven't had a chance to let everyone know until today :)

S. Krishna 8/13/09, 10:04 PM  

I haven't been sure about this one, but you've made me want to read it! Thanks for the review.

Unknown 9/23/09, 1:41 PM  

I've just read this last week. An excellent book. Cant wait for the second book to be released.

Pam van Hylckama Vlieg 11/18/09, 6:06 PM  

Oh I didn't know it was a trilogy. Maybe I should have waited till they were all out :D Thanks for the review, I really can't wait to crack this book open now.

dog eared copy 5/18/12, 1:01 PM  

I'm not big on YA, so perhaps that is why I missed this when it first came out; but after reading your review, I'm definitely tracking down the audio :-)

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