Friday, June 8, 2018

Audiobook Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth #1)
Author: Carrie Ryan
Narrator: Vane Millon
Publication Date: March 10, 2009
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Length: 9 hours 31 minutes
Add to Goodreads

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

Disclaimer: This book has got serious issues, but I love it anyway.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth was the first zombie book I ever read, way back in 2011. Actually, I was so new to the world of YA dystopia and fantasy that it literally took me a hundred pages to realize that the Unconsecrated were zombies. I've read this book three times now, more than I've reread any other book, now that I think about it. Something about this series keeps bringing me back, although my feelings have changed a bit since the last time I read five years ago!

Mary lives in a village that is all she's ever known. The village is governed by the Sisterhood, a fanatical religious group of women who hold all the knowledge of the world before the Return. Mary has questions about the outside world and wants to see the ocean more than anything, although there's slim chance of that happening since it's time for her to get married and start reproducing. Yikes. I never had any strong feelings for Mary in my first two reads, but on this read through, I found myself disliking her more than expected. While I loved her constant need to know what more existed, I could not stand her romantic inclinations.

Oh yes, there's romance, and lots of it! In this tiny world within fenced walls, Mary has managed to find herself in a love triangle with two brothers and it is extremely confusing. Mary wants Travis. Too bad he's going to marry her best friend. All is well, though, because she decides to settle for his brother Harry. But wait! She changes her mind and wants Travis again! But is Travis enough for her? I literally felt myself getting dizzy with the back and forth of these relationships. Outside of the romance, I quite liked Mary and found her to be a strong, inspiring character. Unfortunately, 80% of her character revolved around the romance.

The thing that keeps bringing me back to The Forest of Hands and Teeth is, of course, the world. I love, LOVE stories that are similar to The Village. I love the idea of a small community lost to time, only to realize they're not alone in the world. I loved reading about the creepy community that has been built over the decades(?) in the village. Then again, when I started to think about this world critically, instead of through nostalgia goggles, I began to realize that it didn't quite hold up.

There are actually a few things about this world that I'm not sold on. First, I'm pretty lost on how long it has actually been since the Return. It's obvious that this has all happened in America, sometime in the future. What's not clear is whether the village has existed for two generations or fifty. Another issue I have with the world is the fence that holds off the Unconsecrated. Even if it hasn't been several generations, the fence, which seems to be described as chain link type fencing, would certainly not hold up. There's brief mention of the Guardians repairing the fence, but how long could that possibly go on before the constant push of zombies broke it down? I know there are other problems with the world building, but I'm not here to nitpick one of my faves.

Despite the glaring issues with this book, I absolutely still love it. I love the world, flawed as it may be. I love the mystery surrounding the village and what could be outside it. This will probably be the only time you see me rate a book with this many issues this highly, but what can I say? I do wish that more care had been taken when setting this story up, but I love it for what it is! If you're a fan of The Village or stories like it, I definitely recommend this book!