Book Review – The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan                                   

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan is a suspenseful dystopian story of zombie related tales, that displays great uniqueness with the depth and imagination it provides. Even from reading the title, one is able to recognize the unique dynamics that the story contains, such as the deathly aura that a forest of undead beings absorbs. Set far in the future, the characters live in a safe village encircled by the rest of the zombie plagued world. The village is surrounded by a large, dense, forest that is inhabited by a growing population of infected civilians, or zombies. Fences protect the village from the forest, keeping the uninfected humans safe from the infected, however, although they are protected, they become isolated from any alternate existing society, making them believe they are the only ones left.

 The story revolves around Mary, a young woman who has recently been orphaned. In Mary’s harsh society, girls who do not marry are forced to join the Sisterhood, a group that helps maintain life in the village through not only physical aid, but also through prayer. After Mary loses her mother to the forest (making her mother a zombie), her relationship with her older brother, Jed, is strained. As Mary joins the Sisterhood, she faces grief and confusion as Travis, the boy she has strong feelings for, has already spoken for (meaning he chose to marry) her best friend Cassandra. Meanwhile, Travis’s brother Harry has expressed his feelings for Mary but has not spoken for her yet, which causes her distress.

As her life is impacted by these events, Mary craves knowledge of the secrets that the Sisterhood hold. Her curiosity towards their knowledge began after she experienced significant discovery of a girl from the outside world who was uninfected, but was later thrown out to the zombies by the Sisters. Her feelings for Travis also grow stronger, as he spends time in the cathedral following injuries, allowing them to share moments of intimacy. The romance that sparks between the two displays the betrayal against Cassandra and Harry, and explains the love polygon that existed among the four, who had all been close friends since early childhood. After spending significant time of her life as a member of the Sisterhood, as well as possessing a growing love for Travis, Mary is informed that a boy has spoken for her. However to her dismay, the boy is Harry, whom she contains no intimate feelings towards.  Reluctantly, she accepts and decides to wed Harry, considering the minimal alternate choices she had that would bring her any happiness. As Mary and Harry prepare for their wedding, the village is brought into a state of panic as the zombies find a way into the community, past the fences that were built to keep them out. Through the panic and chaos, Harry and Mary escape the village onto a path that brings them far into the outside world. They are joined by a young village boy named Jacob whom Harry had saved, as well as Cassandra, Travis, and Mary’s brother Jed and his wife Beth. The outsider that Mary discovered earlier on also continues to appear throughout the story, providing Mary with greater curiosity.  From this point on the characters embark on a journey that unlocks truth of the world beyond the forest, as well as insight into their relationships. 

 Reading the story gave me an impacting feeling of suspense and curiosity. Rather than staying near the typical zombie apocalypse plot of fighting and death, this story covers numerous other dimensions that provides interesting insight and provokes imagination. It covers romance, family relationships, and also internal battle. The story also contains a uniqueness in comparison to most other dystopian, futuristic stories. Although set far in the future, the isolated and conservative lifestyle as well as significant lack of resources that the characters are surrounded with, causes one to imagine the story in a setting that appears familiar to that of the far past. It strays from the common belief of an advanced society in the future, and describes a future of struggle among humanity.

The story promotes the message of following what your mind strives towards and what you know is right.  This magnificent story is full of mystery, but is also made up of great suspense and surprise. It is one of those novels that one has difficulty putting down. The characters are incredibly plausible and show their unique characteristics. It is a story that is not difficult to wrap your head around and is comprehensible in an excellent way.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Reviewer: Kieran

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