This sequel to Ryan's first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, started off strongly but overall fell short of the first book. But let me begin with the reasons why I liked the book.
First of all, you quickly learn that Ryan sets her book years into the future from when the last book left off. And the perspective has changed from Mary to her daughter, Gabry, which brings me to the main reason I liked the book. Because the book is written in Gabry's voice, it's not necessary to read the first book to understand what is going on. There are many things from the first book Gabry doesn't know because she doesn't know a lot about her mother's past. She isn't aware of the Sisterhood, which was so central to the first book, for instance. But Gabry's story continues despite this. And that is the perspective the reader takes on if he/she hasn't read the first book. Gabry will say things like, "my mother has a habit of writing on the door thresholds and I never understood why." Well, if someone hasn't read the first book, then they would simply not understand this as well, just like Gabry. If someone HAS read the first book, like me, you'd understand,. This is because you're going into the second book with the mother's perspective.
In a strange way, this made me feel aged. The traditions and customs I was "used" to based on the first book, now seemed years in the past and obsolete. It made me wonder how much of this feeling happens with my parents, or my grandparents, or even with me when I compare myself to people younger than me. I felt like this gave me perspective into how one generation sees another. For that reason alone, I am happy to have read the book.
Now for the reasons why it didn't measure up to the first...There were times when I read the book that I was reminded it's a young adult book. For me, that's a good way to separate good YA books from great ones. For example, there were a lot of teenage angsty moments that didn't seem to quite fit. For example, Gabry can't decide which boy she likes better even though there are greater things happening as far as people dying and being hunted. I guess these moments were in the first book too but Ryan seemed to blend them a bit better. Also, I liked Mary's character better than Gabry's. Mary was a lot stronger and didn't seem as whiney (as my husband put it) as Gabry. Finally, I was disappointed that the second half of the book was basically a replay of the first one - the characters are left wandering between fences in the forest. I was hoping for something new and different, which was offered in the first half of the book only.
Despite these disappointments, I will definitely read the next book in the hopes that Ryan will wow me with something new.
The Hubs' Take: "whiney...really whiney...not as exciting as the Hunger Games. Very lifetime story-ish."
Reviewed by Cathy