The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan tells the story of Mary, and her life within her village, which is enclosed by a long fence, protected from The Forest of Hands and Teeth, filled with the perpetually hungry, grotesque reanimated bodies of the dead–the Unconsecrated.
Ever since The Return, when dead bodies began to come back, not necessarily to life, but to movement and continual yearning for the flesh of the living. The members of the village live simply, quietly, with their only goal to survive. At the outset of the novel, Mary is asked to the harvest festival by Harry, one of her best friends. This is not a simple festival, but when couples go to this celebration, they are betrothed from that point on, to marry in the Spring.
Before Mary can respond, the village alarm sounds, which means the fence has been breached. When they investigate, they discover that Mary’s mother has been bitten by the Unconsecrated–she is infected. Her mother strayed too near the fence after seeing her father beyond the fence. Mary was supposed to look after her mother, who has been unstable ever since Mary’s father was turned not long ago. Mary’s brother, Jed, blames her for this and turns her away, which removes all prospects Mary has in the village, other than joining the mysterious, powerful Sisterhood.
The Sisterhood doubles as the education and religious component of the society, headquartered in the only stone structure in the village. Mary begins her life with them, and her entire world begins to crash down around her. She learns that the Sisterhood has kept many secrets. She falls in love, and she encounters a stranger who piques her interest and helps her on a perilous journey into the Forest of Hands and Teeth.
This was a very interesting book. It was a little slow at times, but a very bleak, gloomy atmosphere pervaded it, as well as a sense of mystery. I’m going to throw a few combinations at you now:
Like Shaun of the Dead meets Zombieland and Twilight, minus Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Bill Nighy, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, or Abigail Breslin–basically anyone funny, but keeping a depressing Kristin Stewart, a love triangle, and removing the whole vampire/werewolf thing, because that would just be over the top!
If you’re looking for comic relief–do not read this.
At the same time, it’s intriguing, especially with the way that the book ends, certainly paving the way for some kind of a sequel. Speaking of which: the sideways sequel, The Dead Tossed Waves, comes out next month and which, as far as I know, takes place in the same world, but doesn’t involve the same characters.