Everyone Loves a Good Zombie Story

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A Review of The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan..

The best way to sum up this riveting post-apocalyptic Young Adult novel is to say it's Resident Evil meets The Village.

The novel begins several generations after the Return, an undead plague of sorts which created The Unconsecrated (aka zombies). Because zombies have overrun major cities, people have been forced to retreat to small villages enclosed by gates/walls which are guarded and reinforced to keep The Unconsecrated out. Mary, the novel's narrator, lives with conflicting emotions - constant fear that the unconsecrated will breach the walls and overrun the village and wistful determination to adventure beyond the walls of the village, past The Forest of Hands and Teeth where the Unconsecrated dwell. Her mother told her stories of the ocean and the outside world, and Mary can't seem to squash her desires to see the ocean for herself or to know what else is out there - how many other villages? Other people who've survived? She just needs to know.

Unfortunately for Mary, the village is not only bound by the Unconsecrated living in the forest surrounding their village, but also be archaic traditions and ignorance, mostly imposed by a religious order called the Sisterhood. And the villagers are beginning to forget what life was like before the Return or some of them even doubt there was a Before, or an ocean.

On the eve of Mary's marriage to the brother> of the boy she's really in love with (the marriage is of course imposed by the village/Sisterhood, since a dying species can't afford women to stay single), the Unconsecrated do breach the walls and the village is overrun, no match for all the zombies spilling into their shabby made homes. Mary manages to escape with a small group of people from her village and they move through Forest in hopes of finding other people/villages or eventually the ocean.

What I liked most about the story, was that it was so dark. No characters are safe, no matter how important they are. And though Mary's somewhat selfish narrow focus on finding the ocean did get slightly irritating at times, she has a strong consistent voice I found likable and relate-able despite the completely unrelate-able circumstances. Even more than that, she's a strong female character (unlike Bella Swann), who's willing to defy the traditions of her village, yearn for something more, something better, and unwilling to settle even when the boy she's in love with wants her to. The background of the Return and Unconsecrated were woven well into the story, the pacing consistent, and the suspense kept me glued to the pages.

There were a few minor plot problems and things that didn't really get explained. The motivations of the Sisterhood, for one, didn't completely make sense to me. I wasn't sure exactly what they knew or why they wanted to keep people so ignorant, especially when Mary discovers Gabrielle (an outsider who finds her way to their village, but the Sisterhood hides her away so no one knows). And along the lines of Gabrielle, why are some zombies capable of crazy fast speed and others aren't?

While there is definite closure at the end (don't worry I won't spoil it), I feel there's certainly room for a sequel, though I wonder if it will be any good or if the author will have to sacrifice character development for an action packed plot, something which happened with Resident Evil. But all in all, this is one of the best YA books I've read in the post-Twilight era of YA fiction (because everyone out there thinks they can write the next Twilight - I've seen enough bad query letters to prove that).

**Note: Apparently Seven Star Pictures is adapting The Forest of Hands and Teeth into a new movie. I'd be pretty interested in seeing that.


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3 comments:

Rabid Fox said...

They're even making a movie? Yeesh. I better hurry up and find this book somewhere. I prefer reading a book before seeing a film based on it.

suzie said...

I know! I always want to read the book first rather than see the movie. But as far as I know they're only in the very beginning stages of making it into a movie, so you have plenty of time.

Rabid Fox said...

Good to know. As if the previous reviews weren't enough to make me want this one, this one cemented it. :)