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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

In Mary's world there are simple truths.

The Sisterhood always knows best.
The Guardians will protect and serve.
The Unconsecrated will never relent.
And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future-between the one she loves and the one who loves her.

And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

This seems to be one of those books that gets really mixed reactions.  I've read more than a few rants that complain of the writing style (present tense), the love aspect, the originality aspect, and Mary herself, saying she's selfish and unlikeable.  And most of the things that seem to bother people about this book help me to love it.

I found Ryan's writing beautifully and painfully evocative, and the present tense lent an immediacy to the narration that really worked.  There are times when the things that Mary says in the novel are so perfectly phrased as to make me actually stop reading and just dwell on them.  I could see everything so clearly, and sometimes just ached with it.  It was lovely in a heartbreaking way.

Much like the romance between Mary and Travis.  I loved every moment of that, and bought it all.  This bit is a teensy bit spoilery, so if you haven't read it, look away.

I know there are people who find the relationship unbelievable, and think that Mary was selfish for a) choosing Travis over Harry for no reason (? did they read the same book I did?), and for feeling like there was something more even than Travis.  I understand why people were frustrated by this and thought Mary selfish -- so many people read YA for the easy romance and the lies.  I hate to say it, but it's true.  I respect Ryan so much more  for not making things easy like that.  I absolutely loved that, although Mary loved Travis, she realized there was more to the world, and since she lives in a pretty effed up world, there most certainly is.  Mary is a woman on a mission, and she doesn't let anything sway her from that.  It's a bit maniacal, maybe, but understandably so, and it makes for a much more complex, nuanced, adult novel than people typically get from YA.  I appreciated that.  

Same goes for the ending.  Some people were really upset about the lack of resolution in the end, and I personally loved it.  (And even though I know there is a sequel (and 3rd!), and fully intend to read them, I would have been content with 1 open-ended but powerful book.)  It would have been a cop-out to have everything wrapped up neatly.  I like a book that makes you wonder and makes you think, and even that makes you uncomfortable.  It means the writer was working and doing their job, not just churning out some schlocky mess for $$.

This isn't to say I thought it was a perfect book.  There were times when the prose was a bit purply, and I was worried on occasion that it was about to go over the top.  I originally rated it a 4 on Goodreads, but as time passed, I found myself craving it, and thinking about Mary and the things she went through, the choices she had to make, and respecting it more and more.   I ended up bumping it up to a 5.  It's one of those books that I know I will reread and appreciate in different ways, but that I would reread even if that wasn't the case, just to get back to the beauty of Ryan's writing.

I also really like this cover. --->


  1. good review, but I have to confess I'm one of those that didn't like it. I really wanted to like it as it was a very decent zombie book, bu yes: present tense (hate it with a vengeance most of the time) and Mary. I thought she was being unfair in how she viewed those around her and that made me dislike her.

  2. I really liked this book. The sequel wasn't as good, but still really good compared to other books. I look forward to her next book.

  3. I have this on my as soon as possible want list. Thank you for the review! :)


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