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Posts Tagged ‘The Forest of Hands and Teeth

forestofhandsteethImagine living in a world surrounded by death. Isolated and behind a fence, the only thing separating you from the deep, vast forest where the Unconsecrated- the flesh easting zombie hordes–roam. This is the world of Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth. The world Mary has been born into. The only world she knows, but dreams is not the only world there is. After her mother’s death and return, Mary realizes that her life is not her own. Who she is and everything she knows has been tightly controlled by the Sisterhood, the ruling religious order in her village. When Mary catches a glimpse of proof that there is life beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth, Mary is determined to find the answers she desperately needs. She must follow her own path, a path that leads deep into the forest.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a breathtaking novel of death and life, love and dreams. At once filled with treacherous secrets and life-giving truths. There’s violence and raw emotions, but there’s also heartbreaking, tender moments. This is so much more than a run of the mill zombie apocalypse novel. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is the after. It’s what happens long after people stop fighting the walking dead and resign themselves to just surviving. This is a story of a people who cannot remember how the world was before. There is no struggle to maintain life as it was.To these people, there is no other life. The past, a life without the Unconsecrated, is just stories. Stories that Mary desperately wants to be real.

Mary is an incredibly strong heroine, but she is still believable. She is not strong to the point of being invincible. Her relationships are realistic, as are her emotions and reactions.

Aside from Mary, the most penetrating aspect of the novel for me is the role of religion, both positive and negative, in a society that has no reason to hope, surrounded by death, despair and decay. A society that knows what the afterlife looks like. On one hand, the Sisterhood gives a semblance of order, a reason for the chaos. Sister Tabitha, the head of the Sisterhood, tells Mary that the Unconsecrated are God’s punishments, penance for cheating death and God’s will. On the other hand, the oppressive religious influence further isolates the villagers, and in essence only creates more chaos, more despair, and sets them up for more tragedy. If the Unconsecrated are reminders of human sins of commission, then the horrific events that transpire later are reminders of the Sisterhood’s sins of omission. The secrets they kept came back to bite them, literally!

I can’t say I’m unhappy with the recent influx of zombie themed novels in YA literature. I find them a nice contrast to the glamourous portrayal of death in so many vampire novels. The Forest of Hands and Teeth shows the other side of death- the decay, the dirt, the violence, the sorrow. There is no beauty in this world. No beauty in hovering between true life and true death. The beauty is in surviving. The beauty is in loving. If vampire novels give you something to die for, then The Forest of Hands and Teeth gives you something to live for.

This is young adult literature at its best. Mature, intelligent, and appealing. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a look at a world where dreams are sometimes all you have and love can’t always win over death.

Rating: 5 unnaturally red vests out of 5.


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