Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

I wasn't more than two pages into this book before I knew I was going to love it. And it wasn't because of the plot line, not yet at least. There is just something about the way Carrie Ryan writes that suites me. Her book is introspective, but not too intellectual; smoothly written, but not rushed.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is the first in a trilogy of zombie novels. At some point in time was the Event, in which people were infected with a virus that killed them, and then turned them into zombies. But Mary's village was created with a fence that separated the healthy from the sick. The zombies live on one side, in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, while the people live on the other side. The village is run by the Sisterhood, women who know secrets about the Event, the Zombies, and the creation of the village. But they run the village tight lipped about these things, and espouse a strange brand of religion that involves traditional beliefs in God but also new customs created by the Sisterhood.

Despite these extraordinary circumstances, Mary struggles with normal things like who she is going to marry, and what she is going to do with her life. And like the rest of her town, she also lives with the threat of a breach of the fence hanging over her head. One day, when the town alarm is raised, Mary realizes this is no drill. The zombies have entered the town and she and her friends must now run away, into the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Having learned her whole life that there is nothing beyond the fence, Mary travels with her companions to discover what lies beyond her village and beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

For me, this book was a cross between Suzanne Collin's "The Hunger Games" and M. Night Shymalan's "The Village" with the romanticism of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" mixed in there. It can be a quick read; with a library deadline on the horizon, I read it in two days (and had vivid dreams both of those nights!). I wouldn't describe the book as scary, but Ryan's imagery can be dark and chilling. And she explores subjects like religion, evil, indoctination, and death in a fascinating way. She really makes you think about reality and how much of it is created by life events and what you've been taught. She makes you wonder, how much of my life is like Mary's? And even without the zombies in that equation, the answer to that can be what's truly scary about this book.

Reviewed by Cathy

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