Y's Reviews > The Dead-Tossed Waves

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
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's review
Sep 03, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: audiobook, post-apocalyptic, horror, zombies, urgggghhhhh, setting-other, setting-usa, protags-intolerable, zzzz-inducing, dystopia, young-adult, paranormal-supernatural
Read from September 03 to 21, 2011

** spoiler alert ** FINAL EDIT: Everything after the line below this is pretty much my "play-by-play" rantings as I listened to the book. What's right here is the condensed version of my thoughts, having finally finished it.

The Dead-Tossed Waves is the sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, a book I found decently entertaining, mainly due to its world-building. Picking up where the first book left off, TD-TW scratches most of the world-building, having already been largely established, for vast, vast amounts of internal monologuing.

Ryan attempts to make our heroine, Gabry, a sympathetic character by making her quite flawed. Unfortunately, she decides to do so by having Gabry leap head-first over the Victoria Falls of character flaws: she's nothing BUT flaws. There are virtually no likable qualities to the girl, and this affront is further compounded by the fact that no one calls her out on her wishy-washy cowardliness; in fact, they tend to go out of their way all to support her. Gabry spends a fair amount of the book pining over one boy, then when it turns out he can't be with her if he wants her safe, she pities herself utterly and completely and quickly switches camps to be with the other romantic interest option. Later, she also forces a self-sacrificing boy to deal with one of his greatest fears in order to save herself. This girl is as selfish as she is dull. Frankly, Catcher's entire ordeal is far more interesting and sympathetic. The book should've been about him.

We're forced to sit through similar situations over and over again, including events that are echoing what already occurred in the first volume. This could've been done well, but considering things are repeated far too often already, it just feels like overkill.

Speaking of repetitions, the book needs serious editing. Some words are used far too often, "scream" being one of them. Okay, we know you're surrounded by zombies and frightened, but nobody, particularly in this day and age, especially female readers, appreciates a heroine who spends all her time exercising her vocal cords in such a manner. It's not just literally; it shows up metaphorically too: apparently someone's freckles scream against her pale skin. Yeah. Near the end, someone "finds/loses purchase" three times in one chapter. Why can't they simply "lose footing" once in a while?

Also, would you like to see how much padding can be done to a book by having numerous, numerous inactions instead of characters actually, oh, I don't know, doing things? Well, here is that book, and you're my guest to count how many times within it Gabry "wants to do/not do something, but she doesn't/can't". I'll bet you it isn't used fewer than 30 times.

The book is a mess that could've been a little better with copious amounts of editing, better fleshed-out and more sympathetic characters, and more original ideas instead of constant repetition.


Listening now, though the narrator's voice is grating on my nerves. I know they want to go with someone who actually sounds like a teenage girl, but she sounds far too serious "OHMIGOD TEENAGE DRAMARAMA ANGST". The narrator for the first book wasn't too great at emoting, but she sounded like a young woman without being overly obnoxious about it.

EDIT 1: So far this is boring the hell out of me. At first it seems like it's going to be a prequel, but then it becomes obvious this takes place maybe a couple of decades after the first book. Since a lot of the details of the world were already established in the first book, there's very little of that here other than to show how this community is slightly different from that of Mary's in the first book. That also means that the book is mainly focusing on the characters and the situations instead of the worldbuilding I enjoyed in the first book.

I'm not that far into it yet, a little shy of 20% complete. And like the first book, the characters are just as dull here, since instead of bothering to take much time to flesh them out, it's been mainly just Gabry's whining. Oh, I guess Gabry gets some fleshing out. While Mary was just kind of there, we at least get to be constantly hammered by how much of a whiny, selfish coward Gabry is. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, because how that character overcomes all these negative traits to become a better person is usually something to look forward to, but looking at some other reviews here....doesn't look like that's at all what Gabry does. Anyway, you kind of feel like the whole zombie thing is kind of a joke of no real importance anymore (hey, it's just the status quo now) when the revelation of adopted!baby has such an earth-shattering effect on the main character. I mean, sure. I'm not adopted, so I can't say anything with my own experiences, but I'm sure reactions for actual adoptees has run the full gamut of emotions. However...just from what little we've seen so far, Gabry feels like too much of a wet rag of a character to have such a violent reaction to it. "It was selfish of you!"? "I don't think I can ever forgive you!"? Where was all this passion and conviction when you should've been telling your friends not to be idiots and go wandering into an infested zone? How about showing some actual outrage to their sentencing, instead of just going "Oh noez, how awful! I feel so guilty, but I won't actually do anything about it!" inside of your head over and over again?

I guess Ryan just wanted to give Gabry something more to feel sorry about herself for...but really? Adoption drama in a zombie apocalypse setting? I feel that there were other options that could have been taken here. Original though it may be (I don't really know; I don't consume a whole lot of zombie fiction), it just feels like yet another thing to minimize the impact of the whole zombie setting.

The first book felt like it had promise that it just wasn't quite able to live up to, but this one feels like it's dull and drudging along from the very start. I'll finish it out anyway, but I'll admit that I'll be very surprised if I end up being pleasantly surprised.

EDIT 2: All Gabry ever does is pity herself or be angry with other people when they tell her things she doesn't want to hear. And she complains about the same things over, and over, and over, and OVER, and over, and over, and OVER again. Her entire personality is built on her cowardice and her blaming others and her internal monologueing which, again, is NEVER ABOUT ANYTHING NEW. She just repeats her same boring problems over and over again, especially how the adoption revelation has CHANGED EVERYTHING ABOUT HER, EVERYTHING SHE EVER KNEW, EVERYTHING IS A LIE NOW OMG EXISTENTIAL ANGSSSSSSSTTTT.

Apparently she REALLY looked up to Mary, although we really haven't seen anything to indicate that (before she learned the truth, she was busy being a typical teenager, embarrassed because her mother isn't "normal like everyone else") until after the reveal, and now everything that she thought was similar about themselves is ALL A LIE because blood is the ONLY THING that ever affects someone; has nothing to do with how they're raised, no siree bob, but since we're getting all these "I thought we had similar this or that and I drew strength from that BUT NOW IT'S A LIE" after the fact, with no indications that Gabry honestly thought that when she believed Mary was her real mother, it all sounds fake to my ears, like now she's just looking for crap to continue to fuel her angst. Maybe she really hates herself, her cowardice, and was hoping that Mary was an image of something she could strive for (which she totally still can, just saying), but considering how she's now blaming Mary for anything, wondering about her "poor, REAL mother" whose child (starving and wandering around alone in the forest) never came back to her, I don't really know if that sounds like someone with a lot of self-loathing. You'd think she'd spend more time blaming, oh say, herself, instead of everyone ELSE.

Then, as soon as Mary decides to go back into the forest, Gabry is "OMG, you're abandoning me?" (This is right after Mary tells her to come with her.) I don't know; this girl is just so needy, but so selfish and self-pitying, it's like she has no emotional maturity at all.

Things are always happening "too fast" for Gabry to apparently understand anything. Okay, well, it's not like everything that's happened has occurred within five minutes or so; you've had plenty of time to think things through and sort things out. ...No, please, PLEASE try to sort things out. It'd give the readers something new to read other than your same complaints over and over again. Also, she's always thinking of things she wants to say or do to console anyone else: "I want to tell him it's okay...but I can't." "I want to tell her I forgive her...but I CAN'T." AGAIN. Over and over. Over, and over, and over, and OVER, and over, and over, and OVER again. AGAIN. I want to but I can't. Make it a drinking game. Try it. You'll be piss-ass drunk.

Okay, so Ryan has created this world full of zombies that she really likes, so much so that she's written a trilogy and (afaik) at least two short stories also contained within this universe. That's not a bad thing, this world-building and expanding upon it.

The problem is that while new tidbits of the world are exposed every now and then, her characters and her dialog are not up to par. The characters never do anything NEW; we're subjected to same crap every few pages and the same, ridiculously boring dialogs again and again because....I don't know why. It feels like she doesn't care to put in as much effort for her characters as she does the setting. Driving the same crap through over and over again (kind of like what I'm doing here!) isn't making things seem more "desperate" or showing "how important this feeling/thought/action/non-action is to this character by having them do NOTHING ELSE", it's making it all extremely tedious. Stop it.

In the very beginning, I thought Gabry was one of the few teens with an iota of sense, since she was the only one who actually thought GOING OUTSIDE THE ZOMBIE BARRIER was a BAD IDEA, but now she's all insisting that she come back for Catcher, zombies be damned, Catcher turning be damned. And all because of TWU WUV? Ugh, again, like with Mary and Travis, Catcher is very, very dull. He has virtually no personality outside of "decent guy" and "crush on Gabry". Their love has apparently been budding for a while now, but again none of that is actually shown and it's all just "I LOVE LOVE LOVE HIM". I feel zero chemistry between them, they simply feel like every single obligatory crammed-in fictional couple ever. Why does she love him so much? I don't know! Why does he love her so much? Even more of a mystery, since I find the girl completely unlikeable myself! Either way, very little has been done to convince me that Gabry is so completely willing to throw common sense to the wind in order to help Catcher. The fact that she's too cowardly to face her punishment with the rest of the teens and is only helping so "they won't tell" is the only believable reason I've seen so far. Virtually nothing has been shown to me for me to think Gabry and Catcher have such a strong bond; it's requiring more suspension of disbelief than the whole zombie apocalypse is.

All in all, my BIGGEST problem with the book is that it's everyday teenage angst set in a world with zombies that takes itself UTTERLY SERIOUSLY. It doesn't have to be a "zombie-comedy" or anything, but it wouldn't kill the book to have at least a couple laugh-out-loud situations (unintentional LOL situations, like laughing at how people this dumb managed to survive this long doesn't count), or at least one character who makes wry comments now and then. As it is, absolutely no one (so far) has a smidge of a sense of humor; everyone is too busy being SERIOUS SERIOUS ANGST SERIOUS.

Conversely, the overtly serious internal monologues of Gabry (the majority of the book thus far) tend to be too overblown (and nonstop) with absolutely no sublety that I don't feel any emotion whatsoever (well, besides extreme aggravation) toward any of these characters or their situations. I'm not feeling any heartstrings being tugged here, sorry to say.

EDIT 3: Things become more interesting once reaching the midway point, but as usual everything seems to be "in a blur" for Gabry, and she does almost nothing by thinking; everything is fueled by emotion.

The word "scream" is used far too often in this book. I know this is about zombies, but most of the time it's used in places that have nothing to do with zombies closing in on Gabry. We have a female lead who screams all the time and runs not on brains but feelings. Great.

"I want to ______, but..." has seriously not let up for one second. It's honestly starting to piss me off how often it pops up. This is bad writing and even worse editing. I don't care what you WANT to do. How about actually DOING them sometimes? So far Gabry's main personality point is still that she's amazingly wishy-washy. (Yet she has no problems beating up Elias and taking out her rage on him half the time.)

EDIT 4: Gabry has eased up a little on being incredibly annoying, though that's probably due to Elias, Catcher, and Cira being with her, and so at least some of the book is devoted to conversations with them and what they have to say on things (never anything terribly interesting, but...) so we aren't constantly being bombarded with Gabry's inner monologues about how awful everything is right now.

It pisses me off that she's still insistent on rarely ever using her intellect for anything, only focusing on the emotional side of her problems. Ooh, so she figured out the code of Roman numerals her mother left behind; her mother already did that in the first book. Can't we have something new? How about pausing and using that noggin for something else sometimes? "Why won't Catcher kiss me? Do you hate me? :(" "Uh, I've got strains of ZOMBIE! in my bloodstream now?" "Ohhhhhhh..."

All these books written largely for adolescent girls nowadays, almost 100% written by women themselves, and all the female leads are too busy being emotional about everything and In Love (almost always in the form of a triangle), because Being In Love is always the most important thing to a woman, right? I'm not saying that there should never be any romance in stories, ever (I probably wouldn't mind too much myself, but that's just me), but why does it have to seem like such a crime for a female protag to actually have strong aspirations beyond that boy she's been crushing on for all this time? Why not write a book about a girl who wants to join the Recruiters and the difficulties she has to go through for that? How about, instead of a couple of teenagers who only dream about going to the Dark City (only for things to take an ugly turn), they actually do set out for it and uncover certain truths about this world they live in? Why not a book from Cira's point of view? She seems slightly more interesting than Gabry. As it is, Gabry's main focus is all about Catcher, occasionally switching to Elias, and the only reason she ever does ANYTHING is because other situations currently occurring are forcing her from one place to another. She keeps talking about how she wants to be more like her mother, but she rarely ever does anything in this vein, mostly taking time out to talk to herself about how things aren't fair, or how everything is futile, or how she's too frightened, or something equally boring.

Finally, my arch nemesis, "I want to, but I can't/don't" is still around in full force. I've accepted that it's immortal, and I almost have the sick urge to listen to the book a second time in order to keep a count on how many times that phrase is used.

EDIT 5: *facepalm edition*

"It's not fair; I want to fall into despair like Cira; why do I have to be the only one that's strong in the group; it's not a position I'm used to or know how to handle?"

I don't even know what to say to that. Just Gabry being selfish as usual, though with some particularly bizarre delusions of grandeur ("why do I have to be the only one that's strong?" Since when?)

She says this because Cira's busy having a mental breakdown (hi, we already saw something like this in Cass in the previous book. And again, it's a woman that this is happening to) and Gabry insists on going back to Vista, because apparently that's the "strong" thing to do, since Cira is sick, physically and mentally and they can't take care of her out in the forest. This is completely without regard with what'll likely happen to them all if they return, considering they instigated a zombie breach (albeit by harmless zombies) and set free all the teens that their rather tyrannical little community decided to punish harshly, on top of the fact that Gabry is known to have killed a man while she was there. So, they take Cira back and get her cured, then what? The recruiters will use Catcher as a slave and likely hold Cira as hostage for the rest of her life so that he'll continue to do their bidding (yeah, I totally cannot see how this might cause Cira to attempt suicide again or anything), Elias is an outsider so who knows what they'll do to him, and why in the hell will they spare a murderer, much less the daughter of someone the council didn't seem to particularly trust all that much to begin with? Oh yeah, this all sounds like a GREAT idea, and because Elias and Catcher aren't agreeing with her idea, they're being "too weak" now? She thinks she'll actually be doing Cira a favor? There you go folks; the result of when Gabry tries to think.

EDIT 6: WHY is the writing so contradictory? "I want to show him he's not a monster", then, maybe a page later "He's like a horrifying monster". Seriously, did this script ever actually get looked at by an editor?

Also: "It's not that Catcher can't be with me, it's that he doesn't want to be with me." Getting close to the end and we're STILL dealing with this selfish bullshit from Gabry? HE DOESN'T WANT TO TAKE A CHANCE AND INFECT YOU, FFS. GET IT THROUGH YOUR HEAD. Funny enough, everything actually already IS about her, yet she always twists the situation in her head so that she can get max self-pity points. You had some kind of goddamned epiphany a few chapters previous to this, WHY ARE YOU STILL SHOWING NO CHARACTER GROWTH?

EDIT 7: Almost done. And now we're reusing ideas (again). This whole "you must go on, leave me, etc." situation was already done...more than once, actually, in the very beginning, and with Cira. Including the laughable way Elias gets himself hurt, this is yet more pointless melodrama that we have to sit through for anything to MOVE FORWARD in this damn story. Also, can Gabry ever say anything that ISN'T whiny once in a while? PLEEEEEAAAASE? Frankly, out of everything that's happened in this book, I think CATCHER is the one who's consistently gotten the short end of the stick, and yet it's THE GABRY SHOW where she moans nonstop (and we're the lucky ones who get to listen to it) and blames everything on herself (as if her simple nonactions are really that important in the grand scale of the universe), yet everyone goes out of their way to worry about her or make sure she's taken care of with never a reprimand or someone telling her it's time for her to fucking grow up. Obviously I'm just not sensitive enough to give a damn about her problems, but honestly, I would've chucked her over the fence to the zombies near the beginning of the book.
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Comments (showing 1-3)

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Becky Great review! HOW does it not have a bazillion 'likes'??

message 2: by Y (new) - rated it 1 star

Y Well, thanks! And your comment reminded me that I still hadn't written my final thoughts upon finishing it.

Considering how many four and five star reviews this book has...well, that's probably your answer right there. Doesn't help that it's really freaking long; I had to shave off numerous words to get my review under the 20K character count.

Navdha Sweet mother of God! This review is just everything I couldn't ever put in words. I am so into chucking Gabry over the fence and being eaten by those zombies.

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