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March 10

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Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

by Ann-Katrina

The Forest of Hands and Teeth Cover

Back Cover of The Forest of Hands and Teeth

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, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.

Now 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 by so much death?

Three Quick Points About The Forest of Hands and Teeth

  • Point 1: Love square surrounded by zombies. You’d think there would be plenty of drama when you have two guys in love with the same girl and another girl being in love with those two guys without throwing zombies into the mix, but you’d be surprised.
  • Point 2: Storytelling lost to the ages. One thread throughout the book was the stories Mary’s mother told her, yet we the readers aren’t told these stories, only their synopses.
  • Point 3: So many unanswered questions. Such is life. You’re presented with a question, but you become sidetracked and you don’t realize you never received an answer until it’s too late.

Full Review of The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Before reading the full review, please note that there may be some spoilers. I tried to keep it vague enough not to spoil the entire story, but be warned. If you’d rather not take any chances, skip the synopsis and go straight to the final thoughts.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth Synopsis

Mary lives in a gated community surrounded by The Forest of Hands and Teeth and in that forest live the Unconsecrated (flesh eating zombies, in other words). It’s the only life she’s ever known.

When her father is bitten by one of the Unconsecrated, Mary and her brother Jed decide to start keeping a closer eye on their mother because they’re not certain she can be trusted to remain sane in the wake of losing her husband.

It doesn’t work, however, because Mary is distracted by a childhood friend, Harry, who declares his desire to court her and lingers with him a little too long allowing her mother to get too close to the fence.

As Mary watches her mother turn and sent out into the forest to join the other zombies, her world comes crashing down around her. She loses her faith in God. She’s being courted by a boy she does not love and the one she does love (his brother) is courting her best friend. Her brother Jed is angry about their mother and refuses to allow Mary back into their home, so she’s forced to live with and join the Sisterhood and that means good-bye freedom.

While in the Sisterhood’s charge, Mary discovers they’ve been keeping secrets, but becomes distracted when her true love, Travis, is brought in with a badly broken leg. Each night she visits with him and tells him stories of the ocean and eventually, their love for one another grows.

By some miracle, Harry decides to go to the Sisterhood and claim Mary. In doing so, she’s no longer required to join the Sisterhood. Unfortunately, Mary’s heart belongs to another and to make things worse, that other belongs to Cassandra, her best friend. Let’s just say things get extremely muddled from there and will not properly render in a synopsis.

Then there’s a breach of the fence. The village is overrun by slow moving zombies and a fast one, which they aptly call The Fast One. Before leaving the Sisterhood, Mary had a brief interaction with The Fast One and discovered her name was Gabrielle and the Sisters had something to do with her turning.

In all the chaos, Mary, Harry, Travis, Cassandra, Jacob, a young boy, Jed, and Beth, his wife and Harry and Travis’s sister, are all forced into the maze of fences that lead into the unknown.

Final Thoughts On The Forest of Hands and Teeth

I have to start off by saying I truly didn’t care for Mary. I didn’t connect to her emotionally and had no idea why she thought the things she thought or did the things she did half the time.

Her mother’s Return was a pivotal time in her life because it seemed as though she was close to her mother, however, we’re not shown the extent of that closeness. Told? Yes. Shown? No.

For instance, Mary’s mother always told her stories of a time before the Return, but we’re not drawn into the stories. Instead, we’re offered synopses of these stories and as a result, we don’t get to see that bonding between mother and daughter. It would have simply been nice to hear the words coming from Mary’s mother’s mouth as a beautiful memory.

Since I didn’t get that emotional bonding, I had to go on blind faith how guilty Mary truly felt about not getting to her mother before she wandered too close to the fence.

As the book progressed, I began wondering what was so captivating about Mary that would make two guys strive for her love as Harry and Travis, two brothers, did. From my point of view, she seemed a little too flighty and a bit whiney for my liking. Of course, that doesn’t make Mary a bad person, just someone I didn’t connect with.

Another area of contention was Cassandra. We’re told how she is, or how she was, by Mary, but never shown this. No flashbacks of moments where she and Cass were being carefree or laughing over Mary’s stories or anything of that nature. All we’re shown is the current Cass who seems somewhat unreasonable and selfish, until the end when my respect for her grew.

All of that notwithstanding, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. The narrative was smartly written. It was the story and the mystery surrounding the Sisterhood, the forest, and the fences that made the book compelling. Frankly, I would have been just as fine if the whole love square thing were hacked right out of it and we were left with five people, a child, and a dog trying to figure out the puzzle.

Their society, in light of events, became ultra-religious and honoured constancy above love. Marriage was one of convenience and survival rather than for love. It was about keeping the bloodlines clean (I assume, of inbreeding) and elaborate binding rituals were created to see that traditions were upheld.

The Sisterhood controlled their secrets and they apparently had many, even from the Guardians and The Guild who were tasked with keeping the village safe and the fences strong.

It’s hinted at multiple times that The Sisterhood has some knowledge of where the Unconsecrated came from and what lied beyond the forest, but in their lust for power and domination, those secrets were fiercely guarded. Mary’s desire to figure it all out is the driving force behind the book.

At the end, Mary does get her answer, but we readers are still left with plenty of unanswered questions. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And though it may sound a little masochistic, I actually like the not knowing. It gave me some hope.

Rating: Get It Used [B-/C+] (?)

Get the Forest of Hands and Teeth at Amazon

*On a completely unrelated note, I have to warn you that the word scrabble is used at least one too many times in this book. Every time my eyes landed on it, I had to sigh and wonder why.

Comments on Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

  1. # Keishon wrote on March 10, 2009 at 8:47 pm:

    Well, I do appreciate the review. I was a hand click away from buying this book but when I read the synopsis again, something sounded somewhat off to me. I’ll wait to see if my library gets in a copy. Thanks.

  2. # Ann-Kat wrote on March 11, 2009 at 12:07 am:

    Your comment made me giggle, Keishon. By the way, welcome and thanks for dropping by.

    As for the book, it’s definitely a good read, but I know it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s almost like The Village meets Twilight (except replace the vampires with zombies).

  3. # Steph wrote on March 11, 2009 at 12:18 am:

    Aha! Was wondering when we’d get to see Ann-Kat’s thoughts on this! Well, I’m happy to hear you at least partially enjoyed the final product. Am in the process of reading it now and I do have a ton of questions, especially about the Sisterhood. Not very encouraging to hear a lot of things are left unanswered, though… Hmm. There’s a sequel set in the same universe though about some other characters (I think that’s what it is) in the works, so maybe there’ll be something there?

  4. # Keishon wrote on March 11, 2009 at 12:35 am:

    Thanks! Yes, I am still up this late. I see you are reading Tithe. I enjoyed that book and Ironside. I will have to try reading Valiant again, someday. Will add your link to my bookmarks.

  5. # Ann-Kat wrote on March 11, 2009 at 12:45 am:

    @Steph: Yes, I did enjoy the finished product. I will say, though, that you will be disappointed when it comes to The Sisterhood and its secrets because barely anything gets revealed about them and their ways. The end will probably throw you for a loop, too. Not what I expected at all and I heard about the upcoming book; I’m anxious to get my hands on it and see these loose ends tied up.

    @Keishon: Good to know I’m not the only night owl. :D Tithe is pretty good so far. There’s something about it that doesn’t quite sit right with me, but I can’t put my finger on it. For the most part though, good reading. Hope to get that review online by week’s end.

  6. # Lenore wrote on March 11, 2009 at 2:35 am:

    It’s funny you mention scrabble being used a lot. I didn’t notice that one, but the overuse of the word flesh bothered me. I didn’t mention it because my copy is an ARC and by the final copy it could well be different.

  7. # Ann-Kat wrote on March 11, 2009 at 10:03 am:

    To be completely truthful, it was only used about 20 times in the entire book (at one point it was used twice or three times on the same page), but each time it stuck out like a sore thumb because I used to play the game Scrabble growing up, so I’m hyper-aware of its use. Personal hang up, and like you said, it was an ARC so it may well have been cleaned up a bit, so I made it an asterisked afterthought.

    Flesh I never thought about, but you’re right, it is used quite a bit. But then again, when you’re talking about zombies….lol :D Now the question becomes where did your aversion to the word flesh come from, or do you just not like the word in general?

  8. # Chelle wrote on March 12, 2009 at 9:40 am:

    Reading your review was such a relief for me! I thought I was alone in not loving the book as much as everyone else seemed to, and for not thinking Mary such a wonderful character after all. I just wrote my review of it today and it was tough. I was definitely bracing myself for scathing comments. So, thank you for being so honest with your thoughts.

  9. # Ann-Kat wrote on March 12, 2009 at 3:44 pm:

    Chelle, thanks for stopping by and voicing your thoughts. I appreciate your forthrightness. :D

    I just finished reading your review and can understand where you’re coming from. It was difficult to see the history between Mary, Harry, and Travis which made it even more difficult to see where they would all be in love with each other. In other words, more details were needed with the unfolding of the story.

    As for the comparisons being drawn with Twilight, I believe it has more to do with Mary being inexplicably lovable as Bella seemed to be. All the boys, along with Edward, were fawning over Bella and the same was true in Mary’s case. If that makes any sense at all. LOL I don’t want to go into more detail than that because it can lead to some big spoilers IMO.

  10. # Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan « YA Fabulous wrote on May 20, 2009 at 4:06 pm:

    [...] Today, I Read… [...]

  11. # melissa dominic wrote on September 3, 2009 at 11:35 pm:

    i was glad to see when i did a hunt for reviews on this book that you had did one, yay! i can come back around and haunt you some more.

    i was even happier to see that your feelings mimiced my own. i read the book in one day and not because i -had- to know what happened, but, because if i put it down, i may never have picked it up again. but then again, i’m like that with almost everything.

    a lot of the writing was really wonderful, which, is a good thing (even though i really dislike first person stuff), but, what really struck me hard (because i am this kind of person as well) was the lack of in-depth talk about the world. it was my favourite aspect! i would have liked to have known more. i think that most of all, along with what you said made me a little sad.

    i did end up buying the book, but, i will be giving it away to someone who can love it more than i can. i figure it deserves that much!
    .-= ´s last blog ..There is Never Enough Rain =-.

  12. # aj bott wrote on March 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm:

    i have not finished it but i cant put it down it really is captive

  13. # Doyle Pope wrote on April 27, 2010 at 2:36 pm:

    I loved it but am not able to find out wat happens at the end and i really want to know wat happened did they find a place without the Undead I really want to know does she get Travis or Settle for Harry I NEED TO KNOW

  14. # Brooke wrote on May 24, 2010 at 7:19 pm:

    I loved this book but oddly hated mary. The ending was so sad but i am excited bout the sequal. I just hope it dosnt end as open ednsed. And i dont realy like that they call them mundos.

  15. # nikki wrote on June 6, 2010 at 6:48 pm:

    this book was one of the best boks i ever red, but at some points i rlly hated mary. she was like so weird. plus, the ending did not make sense at all. [EDITED TO REMOVE SPOILER]!! D: the character that i truly did like was the dog. but other than mary being weird and having a ton of questions in the end, i thought the book was pretty good. cant wait to read the sequal!!! :]

  16. # nicolec wrote on December 2, 2010 at 10:50 am:

    i love this book. this is my senior year n i picked this book to read for a English assignment n i loved it!

  17. # Jessica wrote on January 31, 2011 at 1:08 pm:

    Well i thought your review was odd. I fully connected with mary. This book was wonderful.

  18. # Chevelle wrote on April 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm:

    I never had a fancy for reading until abt 2 months ago when I heard we had to do a 700 pt project for english. I was sad to hear that I had to read a novel. But when I went to my local walmart looking for a book this one just jumped out to me (paper back). just the picture of the girl with brances all around her and the words HANDS and TEETH just told me to pick it up and look at the back.
    Yes I am one who judges a book by its cover and title… sry but thats just me. And I’m glad I got this book! As I said b4 i hate reading! and surprizingly I read this is just for sittings! A 6 hour, 30- an hour, 3 charpters, and by that time i was at abt chapter 23 and read the rest of it! I can say that I cried when Travis did wat he did(not saying so I don’t spoil it…) but yes i cried like a big baby. I now have the second book and haven’t started to read it yet… gonna wait until im finished with the 700 pt project so i dont get confused. but in other words i can say that Carrie Ryan is the best author alive! she really knows how to gets a readers attention!

  19. # Chevelle wrote on April 4, 2011 at 4:26 pm:

    @Doyle Pope
    hey u need to finish it! [Edited to remove spoilers]! you just need to read it so you can understand!

  20. # Ashlee wrote on April 21, 2011 at 5:38 pm:

    I havn’t read the book. Im searching it up for my friend. :/

  21. # Madii wrote on June 6, 2011 at 12:31 am:

    so, ann-kat…i agree that some of the events and characters and relationships aren’t described very well, but it’s as if you’re actually looking at a person’s life that way; it makes it seem more realistic. Also, you perceive Mary as a character that you don’t connect with. I think it’s because the author was trying to make the character more imperfect; more human. If all the characters would be like edward cullen, then it would never be realistic at all. If the author is trying to coax you into thinking that this could actually happen, then she’s going to try to make the characters real and vague to keep the image…these are just my thoughts, though I agree with you on a few of your points that you mentioned in the review. I loved this book and think i might’ve read it twice c:

  22. # Coca wrote on July 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm:

    I LOVED this book and the sequel. I’ve purchased the 3rd and am looking forward to reading it as well.

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