Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Plot Summary:
It has been years since the Unconsecrated have roamed the island. For Mary, she has lived her entire life in the village, knowing her fate: marry or join the Sisterhood. Although Mary is in love with Travis, it is his brother, Harry, who will ask for her hand and she is unsure if she could be content marrying a man she doesn't have to love. However, this decision wouldn't have been so difficult if her mother hadn't died and joined the Unconsecrated. According to the law, anyone who is bitten has two choices: immediate death or thrown into the Forest of Hands and Teeth to roam the island with the undead. Although Mary was supposed to watch her mother that day, it was her mother's choice to be turned to the Forest to join her husband. Unwilling to deny her mother her wish, she watched her mother die and return, which not only tears her apart, but angers her older brother, Jed. When she returns home to gather her mother's belongings, Jed informs Mary that she will no longer be staying in her home. Apparently, no one has asked for her hand, which leaves her with only one choice: join the Sisterhood. The Sisters are the ones who not only keep the law and order the village, but are the keepers of all of the secrets and reasons behind the Unconsecrated. Being apart of the Sisterhood is not what Mary had planned, in fact, she is unsure about her future because of her mother's stories. For many years, her mother would tell her about the ocean and the existence of a place beyond the village. Although these "fancies" are nothing but stories, Mary cannot shake the fact that there could be something beyond the fences free of the undead. One night, an outsider makes her way into the village and Mary is convinced that if someone, who wasn't infected, is able to get into the village then there has to be a place she can go that isn't surrounded by the Unconsecrated. Unfortunately, when Gabrielle reveals to her the number "XVIII," Mary knew she was trying to tell her something, which will lead her on a journey that is not only dangerous, but could cost her everything. 

Critical Evaluation:
In this amazing tale of survival, Mary not only has to fight for her life, she has to face the trials and tribulations of adolescence by battling starvation and zombies. Carrie Ryan has given readers a remarkable tale where love and hope are rarities in a world ravaged by darkness and evil. Another aspect about this story, which will leave readers thinking, is how religion plays a huge effect on the outcome of this story. The Sisterhood is a powerful group who not only rule over the people, but are the only connection to God and His will. Readers also discover that the guardians (i.e., military), under the control of the Sisterhood, have hidden valuable information from the villagers in case there was ever a breach. In many ways, Mary sees this is a blatant attempt for the Sisterhood and Guardians to flee and leave the rest of the village to die. In just a short amount of time, Mary, Travis, Harry, Jed, Cass, and Jacob learn the harsh realities of life and, even with a huge fence, nothing is full proof, nor is it everlasting. All of the characters in the book undergo quite a bit of growing up, which forces them to confront the truth about life, love, and happiness. For Travis, he only wanted to protect Mary, but; in reality, she didn't need to be protected and a life with him could never be enough. For Harry, despite knowing that Mary could never love him, he wanted nothing more than to have a life with her because his love was strong enough for the both of them. As for Cass, her frailty turned in fierceness after caring, and loving Jacob, as her own. Lastly, for Jed, he and Mary are finally on equal grounding where he know that he can no longer tell Mary what to do or deny her strength. Many readers will identify with these characters because at one point, or another, we all realize what we really want and having faith that we can achieve that goal. I will admit there is quite a bit of angst, but when one is trying to survive a zombie apocalypse, and being a teenager, anyone would be a bit angsty. I can't wait for the next installment!

Information about the Author:
 According to her website, Carrie Ryan was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. While in high school, she  was the junior VP, captain of the field hockey team, founder of the girls soccer team, managed to write her first short story. After graduating from high school, she attended Williams College,  in Massachusetts, maintained a nice repertoire of school activities, became an avid mountain biker, hiked the Wind River Wilderness Mountains, participated in a Mayan archeological dig in Guatemala, and taught SAT Prep for Princeton Review. After graduating from college, she moved to Virginia and worked at Foxcroft school where she finished her first book:
She tried to convince agents that they really wanted a sensual western historical romance, but they were quite adamant that they did not. So she decided to write chick lit. Unfortunately, most chick lit showcased exciting city life and Carrie's life was pretty boring in the Virginia countryside. So she came up with the brilliant plan of going to law school and getting a job in a big city so she could have an exciting life to draw from.
While at Duke Law School, she met her husband, J.P., who introduced her to the world of zombies and kick started her fascination with the undead. After graduating from law school, Ryan wanted to get serious about writing chick lit for adults. However, she ultimately decided to write young adult fiction since the chick lit plan fell through and it was her husband who convinced her to write a teen zombie novel: "There are so many movies about the days and weeks after a zombie apocalypse, but Carrie wanted to know what happened much later—generations later. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is her first published novel and she's excited to be writing even more novels set in the same world." 

Genre:
Teen Zombie Lit

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 8 & up

Books Similar to The Forest of Hands and Teeth:
Awards & Recognition:
  • Starred Review School Library Journal (05/1/2009)
  • Starred Review Publisher's Weekly (02/2/2009)

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Deborah Takahashi
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My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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