The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan
Pub Date: March 2009
Pages: 320
Genre: YA, Dystopian

Brief Summary:

Mary's village is surrounded by a protective fence. Not only are the villagers contained, their lives are bound to many rules. Rules created by The Sisters in order to protect the people from the Unconsecrated, those of the undead who devour human flesh. Mary wants to live a normal life, and even though marriage is not determined by love, she wishes to marry Travis. Unfortunately, Travis is betrothed to her best friend, Cass and she is engaged to Travis's brother, Harry. Her frustration continues when she finds out that there is more to the outlying forest, referred to as The Forest of Hands and Teeth, when she discovers a hidden visitor. The Sisters warn her from asking too many questions, lamenting that some curiosities should be put to rest. In the end, it matters little: the fence is overpowered, the Unconsecrated have taken over the village, and Mary, her brother and his wife, Cass, Harry, Travis, and an orphaned boy are the only ones remaining. They must make their way through the Forest of Hands and Teeth without becoming contaminated by the flesh-eating zombies.

My thoughts:
Zombies. (!) Zombies. (!) Zombies. (!) Zombies. (!)
I quickly burned myself out on Dystopian Fiction having focused on it so much in high school, early college yeas, and then teaching The Giver years over again in the classroom. You must understand that I needed a break, and up until this year had an immediate gag reflex at the thought of reading any more dystopian fic. (For emphasis, I have refused to read The Uglies series for that very reason. Who cares that it has received accolades from everyone in the book community!)

Why, then, did I pick up tFoHaT? First, the cover. Isn't it gorgeous? it's eery, dark, and romantic.

And then, I decided to read some of the information on Amazon, mainly the author interview where I read this:

Amazon.com: Your book has drawn inevitable comparison to the archetypal zombie flick, Night of the Living Dead. How does Mary’s world differ from the world George Romero created more than 40 years ago? Are the movies what first got you hooked on zombies?

Ryan: George Romero has really sparked a lot of imaginations and while any book or movie with zombies inevitably owes a massive debt to Romero's world, I tend not to think of The Forest of Hands and Teeth as a "zombie book," but rather a book that happens to have zombies in it. The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which takes place generations after the apocalypse, is really about a girl struggling with growing up, desire, and a controlling society set against the backdrop of a world with zombies (called “Unconsecrated”) constantly pushing against the fences. The characters have already come to terms with the Return (the zombie apocalypse) and know nothing else: this is their world and they've accepted it.

Ummm... Did she say ZOMBIES? I love zombies. I don't get enough time with Zombies. Plus, it's October, so it seemed like the perfect month to read a dystopian novel that included flesh eating undead ravishing the land.

Trick or Treat

This is where the review gets a bit tricky. While the zombie attacks are taking place, a love triangle of sorts forms. Mary is in love with Travis, who is in love with her. But, as I mentioned, Travis is to be married to Cass. Cass is in love with Harry, who is to marry Mary. Oh yeah, and Harry happens to be in love with Mary as well. Cass, having dealt with being "second" to Mary all her life, struggles with some initial bitterness.

Now, the love triangle doesn't really take away from the story, but it does make me very frustrated with Mary. And frustration is good, because, well, if you're frustrated with a character, then you feel something, right? In those moments of frustration, I could get along with the story. Unfortunately, most of the time I felt disconnected with all of the characters.

I couldn't really figure out what my problem was. Especially because it's not as though the writing was awful; in fact, I thought Carrie Ryan wrote quite well. None the less, I was reading it within a disconnected fog.

Or so I thought.

There's this scene (and because I don't want to give away spoilers, I'm going to be vague) where Mary and Travis have a very real and honest conversation. The messiness of Truth hung on the pages with no one to clean it up. Souls were bared, sadness was enveloped, anger lashed out. It was raw, and without realizing it, I was crying. Tears streaming down my face.

I closed the book in awe. Although I'm not against growing so emotionally involved with the characters that I bawl, I admit to being thrown off when I didn't really find myself feeling anything for the first two-thirds of the novel. At what point did I begin connecting with Mary? The desperation? The sadness?

I think overtime this might grown into one of my favorite Young Adult books. In the very least, it will deserve a re-read in the future.


  1. My reactions were similar to yours - it's like she made you care while you didn't realize it!

    I love dystopian fiction. I've read a lot of it this year, and hope I don't wear myself out about it.

  2. I did not stay interested in this story, but I like the cover and title as well.

  3. I felt the same way as you did at the beginning of the book through the entire book. I never had that moment where she clicked for me, and even during that scene, I didn't feel anything. Not every book is for every reader, though.

  4. I felt the same way as you did at the beginning of the book through the entire book. I never had that moment where she clicked for me, and even during that scene, I didn't feel anything. Not every book is for every reader, though.


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