Saturday, December 31, 2016

REVIEW: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan

Mary's world is a dark one. Her village is surrounded by a forest filled with flesh-eating undead. A fence separates the village from the dangers hiding in the trees. Nobody ventures into the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Mary wants more from her life than marriage or joining The Sisterhood in their Cathedral. She dreams of the stories told to her by her mother. Stories of the ocean and what life was like before The Return, when the dead began to prey on the living. Everyone tells her the stories are just fairy tales and nothing exists past the village fence but death.

One fateful day, the village is overrun by zombies. Mary and other survivors learn the truth about what lies beyond the fence, and must either learn to survive or die.

Too many dystopian or apocalyptic stories fall into the same pitfall -- the belief that there has to be some sort of silver lining, a happy ending. In reality, sometimes there is no magical shining light at the end of the tunnel. Ryan is not afraid to portray death, loss and despair in this book. She avoids the pitfall and offers up a story where the main characters have major flaws and don't necessarily survive. But, this isn't a depressing story. In the end, it's realistic. And the light at the end of the tunnel is sometimes within the characters themselves. In the beginning, I found the main character, Mary, to be childish, self-centered and foolish. In her defense, she was still a child. And aren't we all self-centered when very young? But over time, she grew up, gained strength and learned that there were things more important than herself.

The Forest Full of Hands and Teeth is not just a frightful coming-of-age tale. It's also an enjoyable zombie horror story. I'm always up for a good zombie fight - and this was a good one! Anyone who enjoys The Walking Dead or other zombie fare will enjoy this book. It is YA fiction, but given the subject matter, the story does deal with violent death and other themes best for ages 16+. I am a few decades past 16, and still found this book enjoyable. It's a well written tale that can be enjoyed by teens and adults. In fact, I think being written for a YA audience strengthened the plot because the story wasn't bogged down in unnecessarily vivid gore, sex or profanity. Sometimes the psychological horror aspects get lost amid spurting bodily fluids and all forms of the F-word in more adult renderings of the zombie apocalypse.

There are two other books in this series, The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places, plus several short stories. I'm definitely going to read the rest of the series.

Carrie Ryan is the author of several other books including Daughter of Deep Silence. Learn more about the author and her books at her website here

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