The Zombie Book for Girls Who Don’t Like Zombies: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Zombies have never really been my thing.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen plenty of zombie movies. I’ll never forget the weekend my little brother visited Mister BS and I when we lived in the middle of nowhere during his first year of teaching, and those two punks insisted on an Evil Dead Trilogy marathon, despite my protests. Over the years I’ve watched more zombie movies than I can name, and I never liked any of them.

Then I started The Walking Dead, and thought it was pretty good. And one of my writer-friends that I exchange WIPs with started a zombie novel about a fashionista trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. It showed me that zombies could be more than campy and gross. My community has a “zombie walk” every October as a fundraiser, and this year we’re building library programming around the event. We’re having a disaster preparedness seminar and a workshop where you can get your hair, makeup, and clothes zombie-fied before the walk. Fun times.

So I figured I better read some zombie books, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I still haven’t read Something Strange and Deadly, but since that one is steampunk I was pretty sure I’d like it and wanted to try something different and take a chance. I considered Ashes and This is Not a Test but eventually settled on The Forest of Hands and Teeth because it had the coolest title.

It was a good choice, because I can now say I’m a fan of a zombie book. I love that the trilogy is already complete and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

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?

A quick survey of my friends and other book bloggers I follow on Goodreads demonstrated that this is a very polarizing book. You either love it or you hate it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if there were some issues and it was a less than perfect book for me.

I found Mary to be a compelling character and thought the prose was gorgeous. The story was horrifying and beautiful at the same time. Though portions of the story are nothing more than waiting and walking, the action was intense enough to keep me on the edge of my seat.

What I took issue with was the Sisterhood. It figured so prominently into the beginning of the book, but was never fully explained in terms of origin of the organization or the motives. I hope this is something that figures into the rest of the trilogy, because while I don’t mind mystery, I dislike plot threads left loose.

I also failed to understand the character motivation. While the love triangle provided angst, it didn’t make sense. When we found out that Harry had always been in love with Mary, it didn’t make sense that he waited so long to “speak for” her. And while it was noble of Travis to step aside for his brother, it wasn’t believable.

Without spoiling too much, I did grow to enjoy the romance as a counterpoint to the despair and violence, and commend Carrie Ryan for having the guts to let a lot of people die along the way. It was refreshing to read about a girl who does love, but recognizes that sometimes love is not enough.

Is this book for everyone? No. But it is a good introduction to the zombie genre for me, and I look forward to recommending it to teens that enjoy romance and dystopias.

What’s your favorite zombie book?

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