book thoughts: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

“In Mary’s world, there are three simple truths.  The Sisterhood always knows best.  The Guardians will protect and serve.  The Unconsecrated will never relent.”

Mary grew up in the village, surrounded by the fence which separates them from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.  No one goes outside the fence because that is where the Unconsecrated roam.  The Unconsecrated are undead that stumble around with only one goal – to feed on human flesh.  They are zombies.

Mary had never really thought about her life, her fate, the rules that controlled her world, until a few months ago when her father went missing.  Everyone said that he was dead or had been turned into an Unconsecrated.  Her mother became obsessed with finding him and spends long hours searching for him in the crowds of zombies gathered around the fence.  Mary’s brother Jed patrols the fence as one of the Guardians, so it is Mary’s responsibility to watch their mother and make sure she does not stray close enough to the fence to be attacked. 

But today, Mary lingers to long by the river, when Harry approaches her and begins the ritual of courtship that will lead to a betrothal.  Realizing that her mother has been left alone, Mary rushes back home only to find that she is too late: her mother has been bitten and will turn into an Unconsecrated.  Mary watches her die and then Return, no longer human but a monster.  Jed refuses to let Mary come home, blaming her for their mother’s death, so Mary has no where else to turn – she is forced to live in the Cathedral and train with the Sisterhood. 

At night in the Cathedral, Mary begins to hear things – discussion and secrets that she is not supposed to know.   One night she sees a young girl her own age brought into the Cathedral and hidden from everyone else…a young girl from outside the village.  Mary begins to realize that perhaps she should question their world, their way of life…

Carrie Ryan’s tale is one parts zombie survival guide, one parts love triangle, and one parts M. Night’s The Village.  It is an action packed read that will appeal to both teen and adult audiences alike.  Mary is strong-willed and perhaps a bit selfish (the way any young adult might be if they were torn between their first love, their dreams, and what society expects of them).  Ryan’s writing is consistent and well-paced, sucking you into the story right away making the book a quick read even at 310 pages. 

The book has a sequel/companion slated for 2010 and the movie rights were just picked up so a feature film is on the way!

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