Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Review - The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth 
by Carrie Ryan

Synopsis: (From Powells)
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? 

Why I picked this book:  To be honest, I didn't know this one existed.  I had bought The Dead-Tossed waves (book two in this series... next week's review!) and when my sister-in-law saw it, she asked why I hadn't bough book one.  Luckily she owned it, so I got to borrow it from her.  Beautiful cover though, so if I had seen it I know I would have picked it up as well! 

My thoughts: 
This was the first "zombie book" I have ever actually read.  I love zombie movies.  Shawn of the Dead... classic.  Zombieland... hilarious.  Resident Evil... scifi awesome.  My sister-in-law loves zombie stories, and after hearing her talk about them off and on, I decided to finally give them a shot.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth was in an interesting read.  Not fully what I was expecting.  Mary lives in a small village, lost in the woods.  And surrounded by a tall fence with the Unconsecrated (ie zombies) pressing against it at all times.  Creepy?  Yes.  The worse part?  Most of them are people that are from that village. 

The book starts with her talking about how her father had just become Unconsecrated and how she feared seeing him someday, dead man walking.  Her mother is grief stricken and spends most of every day searching the sea of Unconsecrated, hoping for a glimpse of her husband.  Mary and her brother take turns keeping watch on her mother... until the day Mary holds hands with a boy instead.

And, instep confused love story.  Harry loves Mary, Mary likes his brother Travis.  I will skip some things that happen (I would hate to be the spoiler) but after a series of events, Mary ends up living in the Chapel, working with the Sisterhood.  I felt for her.  I really did.  The things she went through were heart-wrenching and I found myself angry at those who refused to stand up for her.

I did like this story.  It was very The Village-esque, what with them all thinking they were the sole survivors of this disease that swept the world.  The Sisterhood is eerie, full of secrets and total control.  I hated Sister Tabitha, the head of the Sisterhood.  And she deserved it.  The story picks up speed when Mary notices a new arrival, from outside the gate.  The girl quickly disappears though.  Only to turn up on the other side of the fence, Unconsecrated.  And fast.

I was pulled along, itching to be away from the fences teeming with the undead, and wondering what the fate of this young girl named Mary would be.

Too bad the second half of the book crawled slower than a zombie.

When you read chapter after chapter of a small group of people wandering down a maze-like, fenced in path in the woods... you get tired.  After a while I was about ready to jump the fence and chance the zombies myself.  Anything for some adventure. 

Did I mention the love triangle?  Yes?  Please, readers, answer me this: Is there a rule out there that I do not know that dictates all YA novels must have triangles?  I know, they are interesting.  They add fueds and feelings and root-ability (is that a word?) But I would love a break.  A beautiful YA book that focuses on just the guy, and the girl.  Moving on...

I sludged through the second half as the characters wandered the maze.  The ending was intense and awesome... which was nice.  I only wish I didnt have to push to get there.  As far as the zombie aspect of it goes, I thought Ryan did a great job.  She kept the usual rules (such as moaning, slow moving, need for flesh and rotting body parts) and there were many times I felt myself cringing as she described some of the zombie action.

One thing I would have liked to see more of was family ties.  You would think that thee people, who assume they are all that is left in the world and who live in this little village, would care more about each other.  When things go south though, it turns into a fend for yourself fest.  At times this is perfect (Example: The village is under attack, everyone is scrambling into the trees, and they pull up the ladder before Mary can climb it)  Other times though… it was just harsh.  I couldn’t like the family.  I know that in the face of disaster things to crumble.  In this story though, it felt like there should have been more of a tie, or more of a base as to why people turned on each other so easy.

Ok.  The first two pages are beautiful.  Amazing in fact.  I love them, full of their poetic charm about the ocean and the waves.  I want to hang them somewhere and admire them at all times.  Carrie Ryan really is a very gifted author.  The ending wraps up nicely, tying everything together in an awesome undead package.  The characters were believeable, though I did have a hard time connecting to Mary.  She was... bland?  Nuetral?  I can't think of the correct word. 

I far from hate this book.  I do not own it yet, but I plan to add it to my shelves as soon as I can.  Being as I already own book two, I cannot leave the set unmatched.  I will buy any more that come out in the series as well.  If you are looking for a zombie book, with a new take on the old horror, mixed with the Village and a little bit of Matched, I do recommend this book. 

As for my rating though, I had to give it what I did.  It was good, just not awesome.  I actually battled for some time about what to rate this book, hence why it has taken so long to post a review.  If I did half star ratings, it would get a 3.5, but since I don't, I had to give it what I did.  I would have loved to let it bump up instead of down, but there were just too many little things that seemed off or long that wouldn't let me do that.  Call me harsh, but when it comes to undead, I need something more.  This book was missing that.

My Rating:

(3 out of 5 stars)


Trisha said...

Hi Jenni, here is an award for you! :D

Jenni Merritt said...

Trisha! Thank you! :D

Rose Transpose said...

Ah, I remember this book. I thought the horror aspect was handled all right, but the characters weren't very likable at all. Especially the protagonist. -_-
But have to admit the title is pretty spectacular. =P
- Nicholas

Rachael Harrie said...

Hi Jenni, *waves* I enjoyed your review! I've just started reading this, so am interested to see whether my thoughts match with yours :)



Jenni Merritt said...

Rach - Let me know what you think!


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