Part I = a couple of Carrie Ryan short stories to substitute for TDTW.
Part II = a few more shorts from Zombies vs. Unicorns.
This is Part I.
In "Bougainvillea" Carrie Ryan expands on the world she has created in The Forest of Hands and Teeth and TDTW (I presume), but this time, she takes of near to the beginning of the Return, when humans inexplicably began rising from the dead. The heroine, Iza, is only in her mid-teens in the story, living on the island of Curaçao, but grew up in the states and can remember life from before the Return. This means more "normal" things provide a frame of reference and also act as a means of showing how quickly the circumstances -- and the people in them -- devolve into chaos and bad, bad deeds.
What can I say? Things are perhaps a little far-fetched, but I loved being back in Carrie Ryan's capable hands. But just as I said in my review of TFOHAT, she definitely has her naysayers. If you didn't like that, chances are you may not like this, though I would give it a try. It's a new perspective, and it's in a different setting and time, so things are certainly different. This one, to me, is even more about humanity than Forest was, and Ryan is very talented at showing the good right alongside the bad (well, more a little bit of good in all the bad. She's very good at getting to the heart of the dark part of the human psyche, and pitting it against the mindless bad of zombiehood).
Iza became real to me in a very short time, which is crucial to the enjoyment of a short story (for me, at least), and no easy feat. Even many of the side characters felt real and made me care, good or bad. There's something, too, which really was driven home to me in this story, and I think is part of why I like Ryan's writing so much: she is sentimental, that element is there -- but she kills it ruthlessly. There is love and sap and things that make the world go round, but rose-colored glasses are soon tossed aside. She's just as much a realist as a romantic, but the realist generally wins. I relate to this, and it makes me connect to her stories. But I also think that maybe this is what bothers people about her. They fall into these love stories and want their happy ever after, and when realism intrudes, they get angry.
But wherever you fall on the spectrum, I'd say to give this one a try. I doubt you'll be disappointed.
"Bougainvillea" is found in the anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns --->
The second story I read by Ryan is called "Hare Moon" and it also takes place in the world she created in Forest. This is more closely a companion piece to Forest, and -- without giving anything away -- the events in this story have an effect on those of TFOHAT.
Tabitha is a teen girl who feels increasingly stifled in the confines of the village. She dreams of getting away to somewhere -- anywhere -- else, and even dares to sneak down the closed-off path on a routine basis. One day on the path, she meets Patrick, a boy roughly her age, and from another village. Suddenly, Tabitha's world opens up to be much bigger than she ever knew, bigger than the Sisterhood has led her village to believe. Tabitha dreams of running away with Patrick and finding somewhere they can be together. But when she's caught by a guard sneaking onto the path and sent to live with the Sisterhood, Tabitha learns that there is a reason for everything. And when Patrick comes to her for help, Tabitha is forced to make the toughest decisions of her life -- with far-reaching consequences.
Story sound familiar? A girl who doesn't follow the rules and dreams of risking everything for love and something greater -- the wide world she discovers when she learns her village is not the only one ... yeah, that's the plot of The Forest of Hands and Teeth.
I was almost prepared to be really mad at this, and think it was just a thinly veiled rewrite of her debut. But the fact is, Ryan's actually done something really interesting with this story. She gives us a character very similar to Mary -- and this will surprise you to know end as you go along -- and she's faced with similar choices and similar desires. But what she does with them, and the results of her longing and selfishness are very, very different. As I said, the events of this story have an impact on TFOHAT, so watching it unfold and realizing the implications is very fascinating. But not having read TFOHAT doesn't mean you can't read this. Because they are so similar, you can consider it a trial run.
Though this is a slower paced story than Bougainvillea, more akin to the pacing in TFOHAT, Ryan's writing is just as atmospheric and evocative, and it was enjoyable to read. It also raised some interesting questions for me that I hadn't considered before*, which I find myself pondering now. There is -- not a link, really, but some connection, at least between the zombies and sexuality. If I get a free sec, I'll write up a post about it, but I just wanted to mention that it was subtle but sort of fascinating what Ryan does with that aspect in this story.
And no, if you didn't like Forest, I don't think you're going to like this. Though you may appreciate how the two stories expand understanding of each other.
And I just have to add, as I said in Bougainvillea, Ryan is merciless. I thought for a minute in this I was going to have to eat my words; it was bordering on pure saccharine at a certain point. By I stand by what I said. Merciless.
And I love it.
<--- "Hare Moon" is found in the anthology Kiss Me Deadly.
*This also crops up in my review of Scott Westerfeld's "Inoculata" and Garth Nix's "The Highest Justice". It was interesting, because I read the three back to back, and the wheels started turning.
[Um, also...this should have been posted yesterday (and according to the date, it was), but I got to playing with my cricut (new! shiny!) and that didn't happen. Sorry.]