I finished reading Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves while I was in the States a month ago. I thought that I might as well do a 2-in-1 book review in keeping with our Dusty Bookshelves and Library Loot – as these books have been gathering dust in my shelves for quite awhile now.
I had high hopes for the series after hearing and reading all the hype about it a little over a year ago. I knew then that vampires were “out” as zombies were “in.” It also rides the crest of the current dystopian wave that most young readers seem to have embraced alongside werewolves and fallen angels. Since my husband and I are avid Walking Dead TV-viewers, I thought that it would be good to read a little something about the undead through Carrie Ryan’s eyes.
Perhaps one of the strengths of books such as Carrie Ryan’s, at least for me, is that it makes me appreciate what life is like at present. It’s good to take a breather after every chapter, look around me, and see that while there are evil and wicked people, yes, we manage to take comfort in the fact that most of us have not been reduced to snarling, mindless, rotting pieces of flesh (the “forest of hands and teeth” – or referred to in the novel as the Mudo or Breakers for those who have evolved into a much faster, scarier creature) whose only intent is to feed. The main protagonist, Mary, introduces us to a world of the “unconsecrated” (the name for zombies here), the Sisterhood who holds the secrets to the world that they know of (they are told that they are the only sole survivor in their world), the Guardians who stand guard and continually mind the fence of the village, and the ocean that lies beyond – always a symbol of salvation and uncovered truths.
What did not work for me though was the love triangle twist between Harry, Mary and Travis (with beautiful Cass thrown into the mix for good measure). While I do appreciate that this may be something that most teenagers who love coming-of-age novels might enjoy, I would like to believe in their good sense that they would still manage to capture a novel’s essence without a girl continually being asked to choose between two beaus. I also thought that the narrative could be whittled down and distilled further – rendering the protagonist a more decisive and more solid sense of self – rather than the continual self-deprecating and borderline-self-absorption monologues that tended to run across several pages. Despite this, I thought that the two novels were engaging – encouraging the reader to read through the next page and the next.
The second book in the series had a different female protagonist, Gabry, whom we discover later in the novel is Mary’s daughter. Gabry is depicted to be less impetuous than her mother – afraid of change and desperately trying to keep the fabric of her slowly-unraveling life (that is likewise built on well-meaning lies) together. However, we are led once again to the formulaic love triangle between Catcher-Gabry-Elias. Some of the loose ends and unanswered questions from Book 1, though, found a few answers (and raises even more questions) in this second book as the reader gets familiarized with the Protectorate (a loosely constructed government), the Soulers (a cult that worships the Mudos) and the Recruiters (who tirelessly seek able-bodied beings to help protect the remaining survivors). While I did struggle with the two books, I am hoping that the final book in the series (The Dark and Hollow Places) would prove to be a faster-paced conclusion to the trilogy.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth – An ALA Best Books for Young Adults selection, Named part of the 2010 New York Public Library Stuff for the Teen Age List, Nominated for the North Carolina School Library Media Association Young Adult Book Award
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 75 (35)
The Forest of Hands & Teeth by Carrie Ryan, 2009. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan, 2010. Review copies provided by Pansing Books.