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The Forest of Hands and Teeth ~ Carrie Ryan

October 27, 2009

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers

320 pages


Mary’s story is just another one of those time-honored, heart warming classics of coming of age, post apocalypse, amid flesh-eating zombies. Like many a similar tale, the main goal in the telling is not the gore and/or violence but rather the struggle of the soul and mind to make some sort of sense of the destruction and absurdity around the protagonist.

Her village is fenced to keep out the roaming, hungry undead who claw at the gates, day and night. Of course, like any quaint, dystopian village, the social order within the protected compound is just as creepy as what lies beyond. The order about town is an Order with a capital O. The Sisters run the municipality with an iron, but seemingly loving,  fist. For the most part, all seems well and good.

Our protagonist, Mary, aptly named for such a town, has been listening to her mother’s stories, though. Stories that question the order; question the safety within the fence and question the existence the villagers have always known. Most scoff at her dreams of escape. For what on earth could be so grand and wonderful if everyone else on the planet has perished? Her stories of oceans and skyscrapers from years ago do not interest most.

Until the breech.

When the security of the group’s very existence is shaken to the core, Mary is not the only one to look elsewhere for answers, pulling apart every conventionality the small society has ever known.

The idea of this story is fantastic. The cathedral and sisters are as creepy as creepy religious allusions can get. The Big Brother-like security and scrutiny are deep reaching and there is a very clear message from the get-go that thought and questioning of the safety provided within the walls will not be tolerated. Bible verses, along with the love and will of God are taught as the only truth. Allegory and allusion run thick in the story and for the most part, are referenced in a cohesive way. 

Unfortunately, this is going down on my list of books that flopped. Due to the sparkling legacy of Fahrenheit, 1984 and their modern counterpart, The Hunger Games, it simply comes off as overdone and a bit of a washed out version of the old relics, at that. The writing is pretty at moments but isn’t anything to call home about as it skips or halts in more than a few places. It also has that horrible fault of present tense which was excusable in The Hunger Games, as the storyline and characters held together thick enough, but here just weakens an already flimsy book.

I think if it hadn’t held so many positives for me, the allegories, the relative similarities to dystopias past, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed but I truly wanted more from Ryan and she just didn’t deliver. If you don’t set your sights too high on this one, you may not be as disappointed.

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