REVIEW: The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan

 I mentioned this a while ago in one of my mini-review updates of my reading, but wanted to explore it in a bit more depth after I’d had time to really consider it. There’s a lot to think about with this book, and while I had some issues with aspects of it, the most irritating things were actually to do with marketing and design, which is not fair to blame on the author, who probably has little say. So I’m only going to focus on the story here. If you want to see what else I thought, there’ll hopefully be a review up at Asif! soon…

Mary lives in an isolated world where fear is constant, and danger ever present. Her village is locked away from whatever else may be out there in the world, forever sequestered by the threat of the plague of “undead” that surround them outside the fences. The society Mary lives in is harsh, confining … and facing extinction.

Within a few chapters, Mary’s already fragile world is turned upside down – her mother dead, her village destroyed, and Mary on the run with her betrothed, beloved (they aren’t the same person), brother, and pregnant sister-in-law, fleeing into the unknown only because the threat behind them is more dire. Mary’s young life has been filled with pain and death, but at least she had always had the sanctuary of the village, and the “known”.

This book drew me in and kept me engrossed, and I read it in pretty much one sitting.  The characterisation is perhaps a little flat, but at the same time, kind of works because of the situation the characters are in – they are physically contained, and have to be restrained in their lifestyle and emotions. They don’t have many choices, and even the choices they DO have are quite proscriptive, so a certain designed flatness is understandable.

It is quite a simple story in all. I’m not sure the first person narration worked completely for me, and some of the emotion Mary must have certainly felt as events unfolded was not demonstrated believably. However, in all, while I feel the marketing for this one is all wrong, it is a good read – it sucks you in and drags you down into a dark and not-nice place. It has a combination of graphically explicit and psychologically implicit horror that will appeal to a lot of readers, but that will be a real shock for any teenage girl who picks up the book looking for a “Mary-Sue” Edward and Bella story. I’m not sure if the author plans more stories in the world she has started in, but I’d be surprised if the apparent target audience, the adolescent girl, picked up a second novel, although interested horror fans almost certainly would.

 

 

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