The Forest of Hands and Teeth – 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 Unconsecrated 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?
The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a surprisingly gorgeous novel for one based on zombies. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m a card-carrying member and supporter of Team Zombie (Unicorns freak me out – it’s been a lifelong phobia), but they’re not exactly pinup material. Carrie Ryan not only manages to make them sound cool, but also manages to construct a story that is spectacular in its simplicity.
In a post-apocalyptic world, where survivors are few and far between, and the planet is overrun by zombies (or the Unconsecrated), we meet Mary, who lives in a shoddily protected society of survivors, run almost completely by the mysterious Sisterhood. After being looked over during courting season, and then rejected by her only brother Jed, she is sent to the Sisterhood for a life of celibacy and worship. Here she meets the man she falls irreversibly in love with, Travis, as he lies in pain recovering from a serious injury. She gets them both through the ordeal by “praying” in his ear, telling him stories of the ocean and of other such impossible concepts, and in the process she falls madly in love with him. Except he’s promised to her best friend, and his older brother Henry comes to ask for her hand in marriage. As the complicated love polygon plays out, disaster strikes, and what follows is the impossible journey of Mary and her companions in the quest for sanctuary, and quite possibly, everything she’s ever dreamed of.
What I’m loving about most of these books by the ’09 Debs (even some from the Class of ’08) is the fact that the heroines are slowly changing into admirable people with serious kickass-ness in their bones. Mary stands right next to Katsa (from Graceling) or Katniss (from The Hunger Games) in this respect; in the fact that she realizes the importance of love or a good partner, but it’s not the only thing in her life. Carrie has painted a stunning portrait of a girl who lives in a world without hope, but dares to dream. A girl who believes in questioning dogma, religion, or anything else that people might normally accept without question. A girl who realizes that you need more than happiness – you need fulfillment to get through it all. And yes – a girl who shuns her world of practicality and commitment, and dares to believe in love.
This novel was so much more than I expected, even despite my high expectations based on all the positive reviews I keep reading. I picked it up only a couple of days before the big movie deal announcement came through, so I feel kind of special. I recommend you read this stunner of a book before the cast gets finalized, just to get a complete taste of the awesome visualization.