Seriously? I Read That?

Posts Tagged ‘YA lit challenge

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.


The summer between High School and college is an exciting, often scary time for most teens. With one foot in childhood and one in adulthood, it’s a time for change, burgeoning independence, and new experiences. For best friends Chris and Win, a cross-country bike trip is the epitome of a transitional summer that went wrong. So wrong that only one of them comes home. So wrong that an FBI agent follows Chris to college demanding answers. Shift by Jennifer Bradbury is an exploration of not only a life-changing trip, but also what it means to be a friend.

I adore this book. Besides being an incredibly well-written and well-done, it’s a highly believable book. The characterization is great. That fact that I found myself alternating between loving and despising Win, is, I feel, a testament to just how realistic and three dimensional Bradbury’s characters are.

The ending was an ending that needs a day or two to sink in. It’s not a “happy ending”, but it’s the right ending, even if all along I hoped for something different. At first I felt that there was no real closure, but the more I thought about it, I realized that maybe that sense of non-closure made the novel even better, more real, more honest. Ending aren’t always clear. People don’t always act like they should, and punishment can be a relative term.

Highly recommended. This is a great entry in a genre that needs more compelling male narrated books.

Rating: 4.5 coded postcards out of 5.

Shift by Jennifer Bradbury
Published: May 20th 2008 by Atheneum
Binding: Hardcover, 256 pages
ISBN: 1416947329
Reading Level: Young Adult

When a man loves a pigeon… history forgets him.

If I can learn one new thing while reading a book, I’m pretty pleased. In that regard, The Invention of Everything Else is more than pleasing. At times I felt like I should be taking notes (did you know limicine means slug-like? I didn’t). I mean that in the best possible way.

Not quite faction; not quite historical novel, The Invention of Everything Else tells the story of the last days of the eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla at the Hotel New Yorker. This is imagined history interwoven with real history. History as we all sort of wish it could be.

This is a fascinating, at times baffling, and always compelling novel. The writing is superb and I think most readers will find this not only highly readable, but also highly educational, a quality only the finest examples of fiction can manage without being heavy handed. I also really enjoyed the little cameo by one of my favorite authors!

Highly recommended, especially for those who know little about Tesla, as I suspect this will spark a further interest to learn more about the mysterious inventor.

Rating: 4.5 Bryant Park pigeons out of 5

A-Z Challenge: H author

The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (February 7, 2008)
ISBN-13: 9780618801121
Pages: 272

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Books That Go Bump in the Night- Halloween and scary books for kids and teens. My other blog.