Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan
Type: Young Adult
Tea:Teavana's Golden Monkey, a strong black tea that has fantastic taste, but doesn't use gimmicks to get your attention.
Rating: 5 out of 5
*Warning! Spoilers Ahead!*
So I was originally going to wait to write this review until after I finished the third book in the trilogy, but for me, the second two don't even compare (even just upon starting the third one) to The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I could not put that book down, bravo Ms. Ryan, bravo.
So The Forest of Hands and Teeth (from now on known as simply TFHT) had me straight from the beginning. I've been planning on reading it for quite awhile, but for some reason hadn't gotten around to it. So here I am at work, sitting and trying to find something new to read (and "Where do you work that you just get to read?!" you ask, jealously, but that's for another time) and I flip through my books on my iPad and I spot TFHT. I think, "Y'know what, it's fall and getting closer to Halloween, time for zombies!" Thank goodness work wasn't busy, I could not get Mary's world out of my head!
The book starts off sad, with the death and Return as an Unconsecrated of Mary's father, but the author does not even give you a breather. Then there goes Mary's mom. Then there goes Mary's brother, Jed, not allowing her to come home. This poor girl! That would've broken many a person, but not Mary. Her goal, which would not be deterred, was to find the Ocean, which she knows exists beyond the Forest.
So Mary is living with the mysterious Sisterhood. So I knew these ladies had something going on from the start. They control everything in the village and they are not even questioned. They might not seem a threat, as they're women of faith with healing skillz (can't help it), but they are not to be messed with. While living with these women Mary is threatened, lied to and locked away. Mary comforts herself by visiting her (unrequited? She doesn't know yet) love, Travis, who is injured and healing with the Sisterhood. Then she learns of Gabrielle.
Gabrielle. Oh Gabrielle how you started Mary's descent into madness.
Gabrielle is a sign that, yes, there is a world either in or beyond the Forest and Mary will do whatever it takes to get there. She sees Gabrielle in a window, but then she mysteriously disappears. Did the Sisters take her? Is she hidden? Next thing you know, there's a new Unconsecrated wearing the same red vest Gabrielle was, but she's different, The Fast One. And she ultimately brings the village, at least for that point in time, to it's knees.
Once the Unconsecrated breach the village; Mary, Travis, Harry, Cass, Jed, Beth, Jacob and sweet little Argos escape down a forbidden path lined by chain link fences and just on the other side of those fences...hundreds of Unconsecrated. This is where the real madness sets in.
Mary in her determination to find the Ocean and prove that there is life beyond the village pushes her group onward. She also needs to solve the answer of the mysterious letters (or as us before the Return know, numbers) that Gabrielle left behind: XIV. Along this path Beth dies, Cass loses her happy demeanor and Mary loses her mind. Between being torn between Travis and Harry, she is torn between love and the truth of the Ocean.
They find a village, Gabrielle's village, but it is overrun by Unconsecrated. Mary and Travis hold up in a house, where everything really starts spiraling out of control. Mary obsesses over the lives the people that once lived here and pulls away from Travis every day. In the end Travis sacrifices himself to save the group and encourages Mary to find the Ocean, no matter what.
While on the path they come to another dead end, and Mary in her culmination of crazy, steps off the gated path and runs through the Forest alone, leaving her friends and brother behind. Jed, her brother, comes with her, but doesn't make it through.
Mary, after being tossed in the water with hundreds of Unconsecrated, finds herself on a beach. The Ocean. She found it. She got that answer. But what about all the other questions? Who are the Sisters? What other villages might there be in the Forest? What of her friends she left behind? I couldn't wait to read the next one after this one.
This book was fabulous. I was like an Unconsecrated myself, pressed up to my iPad and moaning when it ended, hungering for more.
I loved this because it isn't the typical dystopian novel you'd find today. Yes, it's set in the future, but it's a future that has reverted, rather than moved forward. The thought of a village stuck in the middle of the forest, thinking they're all that's left of mankind, fascinates me. Instead of a high powered, evil government, we have women of God calling the shots, but perhaps doing unspeakable things for the good of the village? Instead of everything taking place on some grand scale, we have the characters going through everything on a dirt path through the woods. And, frankly, I haven't read a good breakdown of a character in awhile. I was tired of all the whiny girls that seem to permeate YA novels these days. Yes, Mary went insane, but she never gave up her dreams and did what she had to do to accomplish them and just wanted the truth. And there was lots of zombie action. Lots. Thank you Ms. Ryan. This group of people was not afraid to do what they had to do to save their lives.
Mary, even in a crazy downward spiral: 1
Ms. Ryan: 10!