Saturday, December 12, 2009

Zombies Are all the Rage: Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Usually I'm pretty good at keeping up with my reviews. I have had days when I was struggling to find something to post about. But with the crazy last few weeks, I am not one, not two, but *4* reviews behind!! And I have other things to post. So hopefully, this will be a banner month of posting for me!! Today, the review is for Carrie Ryan's Zombie-themed book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth (320 pgs, Delacorte Books, 2009). It is a YA book (of course) and I am using it as a selection for the YA Dystopian Challenge.

My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away. She once showed me a picture that she said was my great-great-great-grandmother standing in the ocean as a child. It's been years since, and the picture was lost to fire long ago, but I remember it, faded and worn. A little girl surrounded by nothingness.

In a post-apocalyptic time, there are few things certain in Mary's life. She has recently lost both her mother and her father to the Forest of Hands and Teeth. The forest is where the "Unconsecrated", or Zombies live. Her village is a little island of humanity in the middle of the forest. Surrounded by fences and watchtowers, the villagers have made a life for themselves amongst the un-dead. They are ruled by The Sisterhood, an order of religious women that control all the aspects of life in the lone village. And they are protected by The Guardians, men who defend the village against breaches in the fence system that would allow the Unconsecrated into the village. This is the only life that Mary has ever known. She was born long after The Return, and knows the concept of loss very well.

But for Mary and the other girls of the village, life only offers 3 choices. You can live with your family. But Mary's only family is her brother, and he blames her for their mother's "death". There is marriage. But marriage in the village is not about love. It is about preservation of the race. One has to be spoken for, then the couple will be bound for life. Mary's friend Harry has taken an interest in her, and she is positive that he is going to ask for her hand. Unfortunately, she is head-over-heels in love with Harry's brother, Travis. The only other option is to join The Sisterhood. And that requires a faith that Mary just doesn't have anymore.

But when a new, fast-moving zombie breaches the perimeter, everything changes. All the years of planning by the Sisterhood and the Guardians has gone out the window because Mary and a handful of others become the only survivors. Now they are on the run, one step ahead of the Unconsecrated and they are out to find if there is anything outside the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

For all the glowing reviews I had read of this book, I really expected to love it. And while I enjoyed the book, love it I didn't. I had a few problems with it, to be honest. Maybe it's me and I'm just reading too much into a YA Zombie book. Maybe it's just meant to be fun (or as much fun as a book of zombies can be about!) But I actually found myself reading it and finding a few moral conundrums. Most of this book is centered around Mary and her incredible need for things she can't have. And I found her to be a really selfish person. One might say that she really only followed her heart....trying to make all her dreams come true. I'm all about dreaming and reaching for the stars. I am. I think every person should have dreams. And dream big. I encourage it in my own kids. But when your quest to fulfill your life not only hurts people emotionally, but hurts people physically, where do you draw the line? Do you give up on something to save the people you supposedly care about?? Or do you do whatever it takes to make that dream a reality, no matter who you hurt? Does living in a world where death is literally looking over the fence at you on a daily basis make a difference? Do new rules apply?

See? Maybe I am making too much out of nothing. But Mary just bothered me. (SMALL SPOILER ALERT). She spent most of the first part of the book pining over Travis. So in love with him, she could think of nothing else. Even when she was bound to his brother, she would do just about anything for Travis, even though it hurt her friends. THEN, when she gets the guy, she's bored with him. He's just not enough to make her happy. She ALWAYS seemed to be putting her needs above everyone else's. And that bothered me. Alot. Again, maybe I'm trying to put more into it than I should. Or maybe, in a world where death is so close all the time, one's needs become more important. Still, I would have liked to see more compassion and less narcissism.

But other than my problems with the main character, I loved the storyline. With the YA world bursting the seams with vampires, this new line of zombie stories is rather refreshing. And Carrie Ryan has a knack for story telling. She has created a very believable world in a place and time that should be completely unbelievable. Besides, she's a hopeless romantic to boot:

"The Sisterhood has it wrong," he says. "It's not about surviving. It should be about love. When you know love...that's what makes this life worth it. When you live with it every day. Wake up with it, hold on to it during the thunder and after a nightmare. When love is your refuge from the death that surrounds us all and when it fills you so tight that you can't express it." He rocks forward and backward as tears stream down his face.

See? Isn't that nice? A sentiment I agree with!! Of course, I didn't love this story, but I did like it, and I'm anxious to see where the next book takes us. (supposedly this is one of a trilogy, with The Dead-Tossed Waves set to be released in March.) If you are a fan of YA paranormal, then this might be the book for you. Especially if you a fan of Zombies!! 3.5/5


Amanda said...

I actually liked Mary's selfishness, because it was realistic, far more realistic than most YA interpretations of love and infatuation often are. She was pining, and then once she had what she wanted, all the time . . . she grew used to it. It happans all the time in real life. People marry the person they love and then eventually they get tired of each other because they're around each other too much. I really liked that aspect of the book. In a book that was so unrealistic otherwise - zombies and all - it added a very human touch.

Haley said...

I love zombies, but I hated this book. I tried so hard to finish it but more than 3/4 to the end I gave up. I couldn't stand any of the characters, especially Mary. I wanted to shake her and yell "ENOUGH WITH THE F***ING OCEAN!" Haha.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed this story and appreciated that it had an actual plot and wasn't just zombies running around all the time. The zombies were secondary in the storyline. It was mainly about survival.

Ladytink_534 said...

I don't really like zombies but that's the only reason why I've skipped this. It actually sounds like a pretty cool story.

Jill said...

When I'm only 4 reviews behind, I think I'm doing pretty well! :-)

I did find Mary a bit annoying for the same reason, but I thought it was a pretty realistic portrayal, given how she'd been brought up, her mother not really being there, but giving her all those stories of a better time and place. It fit her age, and it set her up nicely for the way things turned out - and gave her room to change and grow. Of course, it all depends on what she does from this point on, which I guess we'll see. Are you planning on reading the sequel?

S. Krishna said...

I've heard really mixed things about this book. I still want to read it, but my expectations are tempered. Thanks for the review.