Jenny's Reviews > The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
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's review
Jun 11, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2010

Let me preface this review by saying I am not at all a zombie kind of girl. I've seen maybe 2 zombie movies with my husband, if that. Dawn of the Dead wasn't as awful for me as expected, but again, it may have been because it took place at the mall. So despite all the acclaim about this book, I was hesitant to try it. But it kept on my mind, and I adore the cover, so I decided to pick this book up and give it a try.

And I loved it!! I, for real, absolutely adored this book, and then I went out and bought the sequel the next day! The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a story about Mary and the village she lives in; the village is entirely fenced in to keep out the zombies, or the Unconsecrated, as they are referred to repeatedly throughout the book. (At one point I wondered to myself how many times the word "Unconsecrated" was used in this book.... it's a lot, haha). Their village is protected by The Guardians who monitor the fences to make sure there isn't a breach. In the case of a breach, when the Unconsecrated make it into the village, an alarm sounds and all the villagers climb their platforms to escape. The Guardians are ruled by The Sisterhood who know the background about "The Return" of the Unconsecrated.

Mary, inspired by her mother's stories of life in the past, yearns for a world beyond the "forest of hands and teeth" which is how they refer to the surrounding forest. Despite learning to live with constant zombie moaning in her ears and the sight of the Unconsecrated clamoring at the fences, Mary dreams about this world, specifically the ocean, whether it exists, and how she can get there. Throw in some romance and a love triangle, and this book is the perfect draw for young adults. In fact, I'm honestly surprised I haven't heard more about it. I suspect, though, that when the movie comes out (for which the author is currently writing the screenplay from what I gather) it's going to be big. I'm thinking Twilight big, but I guess we'll see.

As for the different aspects of the book, I was entranced from the beginning by the writing and the story. Just read the first chapter and you'll get a feel for the beauty I found in this book. The story is narrated by Mary in first person, present tense. I'm almost always not a fan of present tense. Surprisingly though, it didn't hit me that this was written in that tense until about 100 pages in. I thought it was well done in this book. The book was riddled with Mary's emotion. I've read other reviews refer to this as "whiny" and/or "selfish". While I can understand this perception, I found Mary's emotion to be genuine anguish. She is an independent girl, and despite falling in love, still feels the need to serve her own needs which I think is important for young women to see. While many young girls will develop powerful feelings for others, it's vital they learn not to let go of their dreams for a relationship. And Mary demonstrated the difficulty in this decision as well, which again, I thought was authentic. The love triangle I referred to is in regards to whom Mary is supposed to marry and to whom she is actually in love. It actually gets a little more complicated than that, but you have to read the book to learn more about that!

There were a couple parts that confused me. It seemed like I was supposed to just get some things that I didn't... for instance, in one section Mary is talking to one of the Sisters and all of a sudden she realizes the big secret the Sisterhood has been keeping from the village. I was thinking to myself, what? How did she get that from that conversation, because I certainly didn't. And in another scene, she's running out somewhere and she randomly lights her nightgown on fire. I was thinking to myself, was she near a fireplace? Did she start the fire herself? I didn't get where and how she did that. But these things were very minor and didn't take from the story. And there's always the possibility it was my own reading comprehension; after all, I've had a lot on my mind lately!

Anyway, I was drawn to this book; I kept wanting to read more and more to find out what could possibly happen next to these characters. Would they fall victim to the Unconsecrated and be "turned" themselves or would they make it out alive? How scary it must be not only to try and escape from these zombies (in addition to all the typical teen angst) but then to know if anyone you know doesn't make it, it's only a matter of time before they, too, are coming after you? Ew!

Despite how much I loved this book, I still don't think I'm a zombie person. I mean, I may be more open to seeing a zombie movie with my husband now... but I found this book, though heavily involving The Unconsecrated in the plot, more about the characters and their world. Zombie lovers will definitely have enough zombie love to be satisfied, but those like me will appreciate the other facets of this book!

Taken from my blog at

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