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The Forest of Hands and Teeth Paperback – January 1, 2010
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“Mary's observant, careful narration pulls readers into a bleak but gripping story of survival and the endless capacity of humanity to persevere . . .Fresh and riveting.”
Starred review, School Library Journal, May 2009:
"[T]he suspense that Ryan has created from the very first page on entices and tempts readers so that putting the book down is not an option."
About the Author
CARRIE RYAN is the New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy that includes The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead-Tossed Waves, The Dark and Hollow Places, and the original ebook Hare Moon. She has edited the short story anthology Foretold: 14 Stories of Prophecy and Prediction and contributed to many other story collections herself, including Zombies vs. Unicorns, Kiss Me Deadly, and Enthralled. Her work has been translated into over eighteen languages and her first novel is in production as a major motion picture. Born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, Carrie is a graduate of Williams College and Duke University School of Law. A former litigator, she now writes full time and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Visit her at CarrieRyan.com.
- Lexile measure : 900L
- Grade level : 9 - 12
- Item Weight : 9.1 ounces
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0385736827
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385736824
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.72 x 8.1 inches
- Publisher : Ember (January 1, 2010)
- Reading level : 14 - 17 years
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #176,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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After finishing it, I feel torn. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I didn’t love it like I’d hoped. I normally read a book this size in a day, two at most. This one took me about 10 days. I was easily distracted. A few pages in I realized it closely resembles M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. I wasn’t a fan of that movie, but with actual zombies in the forest (I say that like they’re real. Ha!) I was intrigued. I liked the book enough to finish it, regardless of the length of time it took me. There was something about it – something I still can’t put my finger on – that kept me interested and wouldn’t let me give up.
The story is hopeless and hopeful all at the same time. Mary is the main character and her will never falters when it comes to fulfilling her dreams, no matter the cost. All she’s ever known is her village, her people, and the forest of hands and teeth that surrounds them. She has always known that the Guardians will protect the fence and the Sisterhood will keep their lives in order. Yet she longs to know if the stories her mother raised her on, about the vastness of the ocean and building so tall they reach the sky, are true. Is there more to the world that just the people inside her village? Did the Return destroy the rest of the world or are there other villages out there somewhere?
There is a bit of romance intertwined in the story, but it’s a strange sort of romance. I wasn’t rooting for love in this story, which is unlike me. Not that I believe that love is a must-have element in the books I read, but if there is romance I expect more of it. I demand that it makes me feel something, and I really didn’t care about it here. Sadly, I didn’t ever connect with any of the characters.
I will say that the last 60 or 70 pages were my favorite. The pace was fast, the danger was imminent, and the action was satisfying. Those pages convinced me to give the book 3 stars instead of 2.5. I may even read the next book. Let me clarify–it’s not a cliffhanger ending. I could easily walk away from the series and never look back. Maybe I will. I already know from skimming some reviews that the second book does not follow Mary any further–which actually piques my interest. I’m curious about what the next book offers.
Overall I can say The Forest of Hands and Teeth is an OK zombie story. Some people love it, some hate it. I’m wandering around somewhere close to the middle.
The main character is very flat, with the only explored aspect of her personality being completely unlikeable. I mean, Mary is one of the most selfish characters I've ever read. She's not even the kind of character you "love to hate". I just hated her. She plays with everyone's emotions and then stomps on them without mercy. She sacrifices all around her for her own selfish desires. Even her brief act of heroism came across as somehow selfish.
The supporting cast is also utterly flat, but needless to say they're all umpteen times more likeable than Mary. Why they didn't feed her to the zombies, I'll never know.
Potential for a deep and exciting plot
Utterly unlikeable main character
Flat characters overall
Interesting plot paths were bypassed completely in favour of a dull, monotonous plot with no payoff.
Mary lives in the woods in a village surrounded by a fence and a forest referred to as the Forest of Hands and Teeth because right outside the fence the village is surrounded by the unconsecrated (zombies). Mary’s village is trying to regrow its population, live their lives and keep safe from those living dead right outside the gates. There are really interesting aspects of religion that are part of life in the village and are also backing the leaders of the village, The Sisterhood. I believe that Ryan put an interesting twist on the zombie apocalypse and took an intriguing stance on the way of life and the impact/ influence of zombies in the story. Right away you know there are secrets that are being kept from the village and hiding the truth about what is past the forest. There is a strange beautiful way about Ryan’s writing and the way she conveys the truth about love and finding love in comparison to the desires and life of the zombies. It is odd to say that there was a beautiful and moving quality in the writing of a book about zombies.
There were some parts of the book/story that really annoyed me and changed my feelings toward the overall story. I was really turned off from Mary’s character. In the wake of everything that was happening to their lives and the village she was so selfish and self-centered. At times it seemed so repetitive because it kept coming back to how she was feeling and basically seemed like everyone was out to get her and she could never be happy. I got really annoyed with Mary and felt that all the time spent on her and her love issues took away from the fact that they were dealing with zombies trying to kill them. There was no growth in Mary’s character even up to the ending. Let’s not even get me started on the ending. I wanted to throw my book against the wall. Mary was just not a great character for me and I felt like all the time focused on her took away from the other characters in the book.
Overall this was a unique story that somehow managed to weave love in a zombie story without it being a love story. I thought there were many beautiful moments that really drove the characters to think and reflect on life, love and relationships. I do wish there was more action, survival aspects and fighting zombies etc. There was quite a bit in the book, but I felt like too much time was spent on Mary and her whole “woe is me” attitude and lack of emotions to the whole situation that is happening. The story is gripping and you want to know the fate of the characters. The book is frustrating at times and throws out some shocking twists. I absolutely hated the ending, but maybe thats just me. I do recommend this book to those who want an interesting zombie story that is not too much gore or horror that provides aspects of love and religion. I am really interesting to see what other people think about this book and how they feel at the end!
Top reviews from other countries
The world of "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" is unlike our own. Surrounded by fences like caged animals the villagers of Mary's town are trapped. Or so it would seem. The Sisterhood holds many secrets except one - if that fence is breached there will death. Because outside of the fence lies the forest, and inside the forest are the Unconsecrated. The unconsecrated are infected humans; zombies desperate to infect the living. The Sisterhood promise that the village is safe. The fences are patrolled by the guardians. They cannot get in. That is, until the fence is breached, the alarms are raised and Mary must make a decision. Fight or run.
I liked Mary. Sometimes. I liked her because she had ideas, she believed that there was more than just her village left - they couldn't possibly be the only living people left to preserve humanity. She's extremely inquisitive, which is great because I wanted to find out as much as possible about the secrets the Sisterhood are keeping. But sometimes I really wanted her to shut up. She's a very restless character, never content with things even when they're working out for her, and this can be frustrating because the story sort of flat-lines whilst she rants on about the ocean (Growing up Mary's mother told her stories of the ocean and Mary wants to believe that the ocean is real and it does exist). Equally, she makes some really selfish decisions which result in other people dying.
Carrie Ryan's done a great job in my opinion of creating a believable zombie apocalypse. BUT, I wish she'd have explained how the infection was started, more about why one of the zombies is much faster than the others and how the village was initially formed but I suppose these things may be better explained in the following books.
Unfortunately, I found this book heavy going. You don't expect an apocalyptic plot to be cheerful, but usually there are chinks of hope and humanity in the characters and their relationships. In this case, all of Mary's relatives, friends and love interests let her down really badly, and don't really redeem themselves as the plot progresses (with one possible exception). Perhaps in light of this it's no great surprise that Mary also pushes her weak friends too far. There are also some missing bits of plot - why did her father go into the forest? What, exactly, did the Sisters know? What was Gabrielle up to? And in the end, Mary can only invest her hopes in hope itself, and that's largely discredited by her discoveries towards the end of the book. It's a grindingly bleak book - and hey, perhaps life in a zombie-infested world should/would be exactly that.
I was going to give this book four stars anyway as anyone who enjoys zombie books should read this for the superior writing quality. Then I re-read my own review and thought no, actually, for me the wonderful writing wasn't enough. I don't think the rest of this series is suitable for me - I need to believe in hope!
I must say when I first picked up this book I was a bit put off with the zombie theme. Zombies just freak me out, something to do with the rotting flesh and mindless moaning urrrggghh. But I have to say this book blew me away. Totally absorbing and I read this in record time. I will definitely read this book again and again.
The story follows Mary a girl who is part of a village fenced away from the unconsecrated - zombies. Mary's mother tells stories of an ocean far away where there is so much water it is beyond belief. Throughout her life Mary has dreamed of seeing this ocean. But the one thing that comes between her dreams is the Forest of Hands and Teeth which is full of the unconsecrated. Maybe there is no life in the world other than her own secured village, which is run by the Guardians and the Sisterhood. They are a poweful force who stop at nothing to secure the villages safety. But all is not as it seems............
I can highly recommend this book. I have now read all of the books in the series and they are all just as good. My only niggle is that a few loose ends were left between the first book and the second book Dead Tossed Waves.
It's been a while since I read this book. I think originally I quite liked it but since then and thinking about it I have changed my opinion a little. It's a good book. It's quite unusual in the sense that it has taken the idea of `The Village' (the film) and placed it in a zombie novel.
It was quite well written, from what I remember, and it's got a very interesting storyline with a GREAT twist at the end, even though I was kind of expecting it in the first half of the book the second half made me change my mind so completely that by the time it came I didn't believe it would come at all.
My only problem with the book was the characters.
Mary: For a girl raised in a village where the women are in charge Mary, and let's face it most of the few female characters in this book, was really kind of pathetic. There were a few instances where she took control, but most of the time she sat around and waited for the men to do something manly that would control the direction of her life. She never really made many choices for herself, or the ones she did were always kind of s***. And what's with her whole desperation to see the sea? It was the one thing in her life she wouldn't give up on or let guys dictate and it was kind of a stupid thing to be obsessed about in my opinion, and don't get me wrong I love the see but it's not worth everything they put themselves through.
Harry: He felt like a really 2D character. Yes, he loved Mary, but aside from being slightly cruel and doing anything he can to get her there really was nothing else to his personality.
Travis: Travis was also a really flat love interest. He kept deciding he didn't want Mary only to turn round and go after her anyway. If he had just been true to himself to begin with then Mary, Travis, Harry and Cass may have had chances to be happy before the `BIG EVENT' that ruins the equilibrium in the village. I also didn't feel that there was much connection between him and Mary. Yes she thinks she loves him, but she would sacrifice him for the sea and he only loves her because she loves the sea. Ok...
The rest of the other characters annoyed me too for the most part, or once I started to like them they died.
So all in all I liked this book but the characters just fell flat for me. I think I will read the next book though. I already feel like I like those characters from the short extract I've read.
Mary, the main character, lives in a village some time in the not-so-distant future where civilization has been set back by hundreds of years, because of something called "The Return." The village is surrounded by a fence which holds back the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Within the forest are Unconsecrated, or really, zombies. The inhabitants of the village live their lives while the Unconsecrated moan, push their fingers through and shake the fence.
But Mary has dreams of the ocean. She remembers a photograph that her mother showed her of her great-great-great grandmother standing in the ocean. She can't shake the image and she longs to see it for herself. But leaving the village means death or becoming another of the unconsecrated so Mary has to be content with dreaming.
Until the fence is breached and she's forced to leave the village and survive.
This novel was at times frustrating, heartbreaking, and horrifying, but it's one of those books that you just have to read that next chapter to find out what happens.
That part that was frustrating for me was the first part of the book when Mary is still in the village. Women have two choices; either be spoken for by a man or join the Sisterhood. If a man doesn't speak for you, you default to the Sisterhood. The Sisters and the Guardians are a bunch of Puritanical crazies, but I can see how they'd want to create order in a small village that could be the last of humanity.
There's a heartbreaking love story told throughout this book as well. I can't really say anything without giving something away, but this aspect of the novel really adds something to the story and it makes you care that much more for the characters.
There's a lot of gruesome parts to this book and if you're squeamish about decapitation and things of the sort, you might want to look for another book. It's not too graphic, but there are some disturbing scenes