Friday, March 27, 2009

Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan

Mary lives surrounded by fences. Behind the fence, she and her village are safe from the Unconsecrated: those former humans who were infected with a sickness that causes them to die and return from death as less than human beings. The Unconsecrated have no intelligence and only one motivation: they crave human flesh. Mary dreams about the world outside the fence. Is there anything beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth? Is her village the only place where humans survive? Is there any place in the world too big for the Unconsecrated to exist?

But Mary's village is strictly controlled by the Sisterhood, and the Sisters won't tolerate such romantic ideas. Life is about survival, and only adherence to the rules allows the village to survive. Nothing else matters; both love and choice have to be sacrificed to the greater good. Can Mary put aside her hopes, her dreams, and her curiosity? Can she sacrifice love to live the life the Sisters expect her to live?

Out of the most unlikely scenario - a post-apocalyptic zombie story - Carrie Ryan has created a book of depth and beauty. Although the Unconsecrated resemble movie zombies in many ways - and Carrie Ryan says that zombie movies were an inspiration - this book blows away all the cliches to create a truly human story. It's a story of love and death, of choice and the difference between surviving and living. This is a book that draws you in from the very first sentence; it has everything one could want in a book: well-developed characters, suspense, romance, excitement, and depth.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is almost unbearable to read, at times, because of the strong emotions it evokes. If you don't like books that make you feel anger or sadness or intense suspense, then this may not be the book for you. But as for me, I'm already counting it one of the best books of the year.


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