Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

forestofhandsandteethTitle: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan
Genre: YA dystopian fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
First line: My mother used to tell me about the ocean.

I really should have joined the YA Reading Challenge. Not because I need another challenge, but because I’m pretty sure I would have already completed it! I’m thinking that this year’s reading would be accurately summed up by calling it “The Year of the YA Novel.” If only they had had books like this when I was a teenager – I probably wouldn’t have spent so much time reading trashy bodice rippers!

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan was my latest foray into YA dystopian fiction. Ms. Ryan has created a truly terrifying world, and has put a wonderful character into that world. Mary lives in a village surrounded by the Forest of Hands and Teeth. The Forest is populated by the Unconsecrated, undead humans who have been infected by a deadly virus that turned them into flesh-eaters. The people of the Village must be ever vigilant, shoring up the fence-line that is the only barrier between them and a gruesome death and never-ending nonexistence. I don’t want to tell you more, because I don’t want to give any of the plot away. Just trust me that it is an edge-of-your-seat thriller. There was even a moment during the final chapters where I realized I was holding my breath, waiting to find out what happened next.

This isn’t a simple book of zombies vs. humans, though. Ms. Ryan also deals with issues of faith, family, and fulfillment. Should Mary accept the status quo, the things she has always been taught? Or is there more to life than being sheltered in The Village? Can she be satisfied with the love of the one man she thought she couldn’t live without? Or is there something inside her that will always crave something more?

My only quibble is the theme of Mary’s loss of faith. I was hoping that it would be addressed more further on in the novel, that the idea of where God fits into this newly horrific world would be more fully discussed. I am glad to hear that there are two more books planned in the series, so maybe this theme will make a reappearance. I hate that I have to wait until next spring for the sequel!

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18 Responses to Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

  1. Michelle says:

    I read this novel recently as well and I was struck by the strong characterization of Mary as she dealt with the need to find and experience more than village life. She was as conflicted as one would think as she worked through the many different issues (as you say faith, love, etc). Great novel and I’m greatly anticipating the next in the series.

  2. Nicola
    Twitter: lilelizajane
    says:

    Carrie, I’m glad to see you bring up the issue of faith. So far I’ve yet to see anyone besides myself bring up that issue in a review. When the author first brought up the issue that Mary didn’t believe in God I had presumed it would be an issue further along in the book and then later on she mentions the moment she lost her faith and that’s it. It left me feeling disappointed as if the author had brought up a topic and then dropped the ball and didn’t follow through. What was the point? Since she didn’t mention anyone else’s faith or lack of at any point. It makes me wonder whether she was simply bringing in her personal feelings and had no intention of going any further with the topic.

    The next book is going to be a parallel book about different characters but set in the same world so I don’t imagine Mary will be mentioned in it at all. But perhaps the topic will be broached again.

    But otherwise I loved the book and can’t wait for the next book. This is going to be one of the best reads of the year for me.

  3. Waiting for that next book is always hard, isn’t it? Especially when you can’t wait to read it. 🙂 Great review!

  4. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies
    says:

    Michelle – I am looking forward to the sequel, too!

    Nicola – I’m bummed to hear Mary won’t be the central character in the sequel. I really wanted to see her continue her journey – to see if being outside the village brought her fulfillment. There was one sentence further on in the book that made me think she was going to address the issue of faith again. It was when they were in the village they found on the paths, and she mentioned that there were no scriptures inscribed into the doorposts. She thought something like this: maybe these people had found God without the Sisterhood. I really wanted her to come back to that. But as a Christian, I’m always intrigued by the idea of faith in secular novels, and how it is portrayed by the author. It becomes a big issue for me – while maybe the author didn’t see it that way at all.

    LF – thanks! Sometimes I think I prefer “finding” a series after a lot of the books are already out – I did that with Twilight. I only had to wait a month or so for the fourth one, all three of the first were already published when I started. It’s hard to wait – and I’m not a very patient person!

  5. Sounds like an interesting book. Dystopia is my favorite genre; one man’s utopia is built on the backs of a thousand’s dystopia. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one at the library 🙂

  6. Deanna says:

    Loved your review.
    This book is on my TBR Challenge. After reading your review, I am even more excited about reading this book.

  7. Kathy says:

    Everyone seems to be loving this book.

  8. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies
    says:

    Kool-Aid Mom – I’ve been reading a lot of dystopian fiction lately, too – something about the genre is truly fascinating.

    Deanna – thanks! I hope you like it.

    Kathy- yes, I’ve only seen positive reviews for this one so far.

  9. Melody says:

    Sounds great! I’ll have to look out for this one!
    Thanks for the review, Carrie!

  10. Belle
    Twitter: msbookish
    says:

    I haven’t added this book to my list yet, mainly because dystopian fiction has never worked that well for me. But I’m very tempted now after reading your review.

  11. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies
    says:

    Belle – I actually like dystopian fiction, even though it can be bleak. Have you read The Hunger Games or Uglies? Those are also YA dystopian, and very enjoyable, too.

  12. Nymeth says:

    I really shouldn’t start any more series, but this sounds too good to resist. I love dystopian fiction, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about this.

  13. CarrieK
    Twitter: booksandmovies
    says:

    Nymeth – Just keep in mind that there’s a wait for the next book!

  14. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads
    says:

    Too funny that we both noted that the book is more than a zombie story. In fact, that’s why it’s such a good book. The God part didn’t bother me as much as it did you. I think her loss of faith was part of her need to follow her own truths. I don’t want to say more because I don’t want to spoil the bk for others.
    .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Review: Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Beth – I think it bothered me because of my own faith – maybe just me, not necessarily a weakness in the book. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel!

  15. JustinB says:

    I rarely read books but im very glad i read this one. It was very good. I was a little optimistc before i opened but then i couldnt put it down. It was thrilling.

  16. Ruthven
    Twitter: eyeslikeasia
    says:

    I’m glad you brought up the atheism thing, but Mary I found to be a pretty bad character. She’s depressing, rarely shows any joy or much interest in other people…

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