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?
This is kind of an important book for me as it started me on my YA/Paranormal kick. I mean, I've always read YA, but I would usually pick up what was most prominently displayed in the bookshop or library, so I read all the most popular titles/series, but never went seeking for anything else in the genre. Until I read this book, loved it, looked at Carrie Ryan's blog and from there looked at a whole lot of other blogs and got introduced to lots of new titles, started reading book blogs regularly and then started a blog myself. So without The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I wouldn't even be writing this review of The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Weird, huh?
I haven't re-read a book in a long time - my TBR pile's too big for me to allow it. But I wanted to read The Dead-Tossed Waves and I really wanted to re-read Forest before I did. Turns out, with my memory, re-reading a book is like watching a TV episode when I've been spoiled on the ending, but I don't know how things get to that point and there are lots of little details along the way that can still surprise me.
This time, I saw pretty clearly how non-standard a heroine Mary is for a YA book. She's selfish and stubborn and pig-headed, but the other characters know it and she openly admits it to herself. She is living in a world threatened every minute by zombies; that's pretty much how she needs to be to survive. I think that she's a really interesting character; there is always a lot boiling under her surface, even if she's presenting a poker face to others.
The Sisterhood is still my favourite part of the book - yes, even more so than the zombies. It's just such a intriguing concept; the idea of a group of nuns ruling a tiny community with an iron fist. Sister Tabitha is a powerful antagonist and if their interests had coincided, I think she and Mary could have made a great team.
I've read some reviews that think that between the secrets of the Sisterhood, the apocalyptic setting and the threat from the zombies, the love story between Mary and Travis is extraneous, but I like it because what happens to them shows the balls on Carrie Ryan; that she's not afraid to go to dark places with her story and on Mary; that she has the strength to do what she does. I don't think it would have worked as well if it was between friends or even family members.
There were at least 3 - no 4 - moments reading this book that made me gasp out loud the first time: It really is a thrilling read. Re-reading it gave me the opportunity to enjoy Ryan's prose more and see the build-up and foreshadowing she did for those vital moments and see how lovely the writing is in the quiet moments. I also appreciated some of Mary's other relationships, like the one between her and her brother.
So I like Forest just as much now as I did when I first read it, which is a relief to me (What if I had hated it? It would have tainted all that came from it). Now for The Dead-Tossed Waves.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Rating: 4.5 stars