Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

“No one remembers where the paths go. Some say they are there as escape routes, others say they are there so that we can travel deep into the Forest for wood. We only know that one points to the rising sun and the other to the setting sun. I am sure our ancestors knew where the paths led, but, just like almost everything else about the world before the Return, that knowledge has been lost.

We are our own memory-keepers and we have failed ourselves. It is like that game we played in school as children. Sitting in a circle, one student whispers a phrase into another student’s ear and the phrase is passed around until the last student in the circle repeats what she hears, only to find out it is nothing like what it is supposed to be.

That is our life now.”

Mary lives in a village, deep in the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Aptly named due to the Unconsecrated (aka Zombies) who “live” there and that are only kept at bay by the village’s constantly maintained fences. I loved the setting. The forest was foreboding and claustrophobic. The fenced trails (were they chain link? Why not use steel? Surely there is better suited material? Was it just not available?) were suitably creepy and the peeks at the Unconsecrated were horrifying. The Sisterhood that controls the village were intimidating and I longed to know their secrets.

There was some really great writing going on in this book. I put such a long quote in this post because I was really blown away by that opening chapter. It was gripping, exciting reading. For the most part, I thought that the writing remained strong throughout the book, but it dipped a little towards the end. Although, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the story didn’t hold me as much as it should rather than lay the blame on the writing. There was plenty of tension, plenty of action, but the storyline lacked something. It was not as satisfying as it should have been.

For one thing, there are not enough answers. We never find out exactly what was going on with the Sisterhood. What nefarious secrets they kept hidden that almost certainly damned the village and I think this weakened the book considerably. The love triangle between Mary and the two brothers seemed a bit forced and actually served to make Mary less of a sympathetic character than she should have been. And really, if you have access to seemingly limitless arrows, wouldn’t you spend your days just shooting zombies in the head? Sure there are a lot of them, but there would be that many less if you didn’t just hide in a house and play dress up.

Anyhow, all said and done, I read this book in a few hours and will be recommending it to my teen readers. In fact I just had a girl ask for a scary romance book. I knew just the thing.

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