The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan

A word of warning before we begin: on the Depression Scale, Carrie Ryan's debut novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth ranks somewhere between Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games and Schopenhauer. We're not saying the book is terrible (it isn't), but it is almost uniformly grim.

For generations, Mary's village has relied on three things to protect them from the Unconsecrated, the flesh-eating zombies that roam the surrounding forest: high fences, the village warriors called the Guardians, and the Sisterhood, a religious order of women hell-bent on protecting the status quo. When Mary's mother is lost to the zombies and her first love chooses another, Mary is compelled to join the Sisterhood—but when the village's defenses fail, she and a motley group of friends and relatives are forced to venture out into the world beyond their walls.

It's rare for us to recommend a book that includes—but is not limited to—the deaths of family members, star-crossed romances, failed friendships, evil religious organizations, and, oh yeah, zombies. Actually, The Forest of Hands and Teeth might have been improved by editing out at least one of its set pieces, but we don't like to condemn an author for an excess of imagination. It was difficult to keep the novel's plethora of plot threads straight (when a mysterious-yet-ominous character disappeared for a few chapters, I wasn't tantalized by her absence—I totally forgot her), but Ryan's ever-fertile brain and solid writing skills made this journey a highly entertaining one.

We've heard that Ryan is working on a sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but one featuring a different set of characters. Hopefully the next book will feature at least a glimpse of these characters enjoying a less-dire future, because right now their creator has left them in a very precarious position. We are definitely looking forward to spending more time in this 'verse, but it would be nice to think that a happy ending is at least possible... even if it isn't plausible.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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