Monday, 31 October 2011

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Story:
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? - From Goodreads

My Thoughts:
I know this books is quite popular with readers but to be honest, if I hadn't promised myself I would read one zombie book for Halloween, I would have stopped reading this one pretty early. What saved this book for me was the writing. As insanely selfish and annoying as Mary could be, Ryan's prose was gripping and I kept going in the hopes that the writing would somehow drown out the unlikeable characters. It didn't. 
     Anyone who has read my other reviews would be clued in that I can forgive a lot of flaws in books if I care about the characters. If I'm halfway through a book and I'm actually hoping that everyone dies, there's something terribly wrong. Let's take Mary for example. I suppose in reality, she is probably a true representation of what a teenager would be like. She's selfish, possessive, single minded and dare I say it, downright stupid. If Ryan meant for Mary to be this unlikeable than she should have, in my opinion, at least made Mary's motivations more compelling than just a need to see the ocean because of stories her mother used to tell her. I found this to be such a hollow reason, especially since on the first page, Mary professes not to believe her mother's stories about the ocean anymore. This example is the biggest problem I had with Mary's internal diatribe (of which there is a lot). Some of the questions, conclusions and even her stray thoughts make no sense or are so lacking in merit I really just wanted an unconsecrated to tear her head off and end it. There is a section where Mary wonders if she and her companions are all that different to the unconsecrated because she is tired, hungry and thirsty. There is a big difference i.e. the uncontrollable need to feed on human flesh which is the premise of the book remember???
       In essence, The Forest of Hands and Teeth left me with so many unanswered questions that I don't feel like Ryan really thought her ideas through to completion. The story is full of continuity and illogical issues which I found to be very jarring. This coupled with the lackluster characters really just didn't do it for me.
      Just because I can't not ask these questions, here is a list of things that I thought didn't make sense. Please click away now if you haven't read the book as the below list contains spoilers. Feel free to answer these for me if you've read this book because my head just doesn't want to solve these riddles:

-I seriously can't imagine a future where people would just accept the ministrations of a powerless religious order just because. I'd like to think that the human spirit is more resilient than it is portrayed in this book. 
- Why didn't any of the people think of fighting the unconsecrated instead of simple reinforcing the fence? If they had a complicated gate system which allowed for a person to be kept separate from the village and from the unconsecrated why not open it on the zombie end, let a few through and then kill and burn them? It's slow going but if they kept at it, in about a year I think they could have killed enough unconsecrated to make a difference.
- One minute the unconsecrated were so strong and relentless and the next they couldn't get past a simple chain link fence? For that matter, why can't zombies climb or break through doors?
- I understood the need for couples to be committed to each other, but when two couples are in love with each others partners, I don't get why they couldn't swap. After all, they weren't even engaged. The whole idea of 'because the Sisterhood said so' or 'that's how things are' is utterly ridiculous. Furthermore, I don't understand why Harry didn't ask for Mary and then asked for her and why Travis didn't ask for her when he said he would. The whole thing was just a waste of pages.Even the explanation towards the end made no sense.
-One second Harry was useless with a bow and then another he's dropping unconsecrated like flies. Which is it?
The Rating:


  1. I was debating on this one several times but just never added it. Probably a good idea! It just sounds extremely frustrating.

  2. This is one I've been really not sure about reading, based on people's reviews and the fact that I can get squeamish with horror novels, sometimes. But, I'm so glad you've read it because now I can be more sure what to do. If I feel the need to read it, to the library I will go. No way I'm taking any chances on buying it before I've read it.

    Great and honest review, Lan. Gotta have a mixture of good and bad reviews so your followers know they can trust your opinion.

  3. Zombies can't climb, apparently. At least, I have yet to read a book or watch a movie where they have. *shrugs*

    Great review! Can't argue any of your points, even though I liked the book. LOL I found Mary difficult too; I guess I was just able to excuse some of her inner inconsistencies as a result of her struggle to try and begin thinking for herself, after spending her whole life being told what to believe. That really resonated with me. I got thoroughly sick of her inability to make up her mind, though.

    (Also...I have to add that I listened to the audiobook of this one, and the narrator was DAMN good. It made it a lot easier to overlook the annoying parts.)

  4. Oh my freak! Mary drove me nuts. It was all, whine, whine, whine and then she FINALLY gets to the ocean and it's like, huh, that's it? And then it ends! So stupid!

  5. Aw, I love this book. I always see reviewers comment on how selfish Mary is, but I didn't mind it. I just think the life she leads is so horrible, that she didn't have many other alternatives if she wanted a better life. And she was the only person with *any* ideas, even if they were selfish ones - everybody else seemed content to drift along as they were.

    I'll try to answer some of your questions:

    - It is just a tiny village who's under the thumb of the Sisterhood and there is a whole world outside the Forest which is not. It didn't seem unbelievable to me, after all, there are countries living under oppressive religious regimes today. Doesn't Mary say people thought the zombies were a punishment from God? That could make people extra-anxious to follow religious dogma.

    - Don't know this one; never thought of it. Maybe there was no way to guarantee you wouldn't get a mad rush of zombies at once?

    - Zombies can break through doors if they keep at it for long enough; they break through the doors of the house Mary and Travis are staying in. They can climb up stairs but they only have the sense to keep walking - they're not smart enough to work out how to scale a fence or a wall. Those are just zombie rules :-P

    - Harry and Travis both wanted Mary, so no swap would have made everybody happy. But to me, the best thing about the romance in the book is the gruesome way it ends. I wasn't expecting that!

    - IIRC, Harry can shoot a bow and arrow, but his aim isn't so great. Guess you could say that he practised by sending the notes to Mary and got much better.

    Well, I tried! :-)

  6. Jessica: the writing was really good. I just couldn't connect with any of the characters.

    Cathy: I def recommend the library for this one because it seems like you either love it or hate it. I keep trying to write non emotional reviews but it's hard when you feel very dispassionate about a book.

    BJ: I dispute the zombies can't climb rule! But then all my references are from movies :)

    Jenny: Bad YA heroine strikes again. It seems we both has a dislike for the overemotional types.

    TG: I didn't mind at all that Mary wanted to see the ocean and that she had such drive. I just didn't like that she cared about that above even the safety of her friends and family. Especially in the end when they didn't have any other way to go aside from opening the gate. I thought it was fair enough that she wanted to go through it but she didn't really give much thought to anyone else's safety, she just barged through like a singular wrecking ball. given that Jed came after her to help, I don't think it would have taken much time to convince him or the others to take a risk. Instead Mary thought only about herself and then off she went.

  7. You've seen zombies climb? LOL Where? I've seen them manage stairs...but that's all. No ladders, nothing involving manual dexterity like locks and stuff.

    I am baffled by the "why" of that...

  8. BJ: I swear I've seen them climbing in I Am Legend and also Resident Evil. Maybe I'm just imagining things. I'm trying to remember what happened in Zombieland right now but it's all a blank.

  9. I think going through the gate was too dangerous for the whole group to do, especially with a child. They had no idea it would lead to anywhere safe; it could have just been a dead end filled with zombies. I think Mary wasn't thinking that clearly because of what just happened with Travis (and she wasn't the most stable thinker at the best of times, lol) and decided to make a mad dash for it. To be fair, she didn't know Jed would follow her, as they weren't even close. Does it help to know that, in the next book, you find out the others did survive? Mary didn't kill everybody with her selfish ways ;-)

  10. TG: I'm glad that they survived. Well, I'm glad Harry, Jed and (I can't even remember the kids name anymore!)lived but I really really wanted Cass to die. That's really harsh sounding I know but the girls in this book just didn't impress me at all.

  11. I did kind of want to try this, because of the zombie factor...But annoying heroines are usually a deal breaker. I don't put up with much stupidity from main characters. Great review!

  12. Ha! I love this review. I tend to see the good in a lot of books these days and have to force myself to look at all sides. That being said, I hated this book. I felt like it was too slow, too boring, and too...unrealistic. Like you I dont understand the whole religion thing. I hated Mary!!!! Despite what I didnt like about the book, I read the second book, thinking that it would get better. I heard good reviews about the first and decided that I may as well try again because I may have just been a little unfocused and thats why I didnt love it. Needless to say, It was horrible. Reading the book from Mary's daughter's perspective is just as bad, just as selfish, and just as slow.

    okay I'm done complaining.

  13. Great review! I like that you explained what didn't work for you. I read this one so long ago that I don't really remember the details, but the whole idea of risking your life to see the ocean didn't make much sense. But I did believe the whole town could be under the thumb of the Sisterhood because of fear, as that's how cults survive. Hope your next book is better!

  14. Penguin: Main character stupidity is a book killer for me. I don't mind stupidity if something is learned from it but when it happens over and over, I can't do it.

    Sherre: I am so opposite of you. I see the bad first and the book has to convince me it should be read. That's really horrible because it makes me stop reading when I should keep going. If a book has bad writing as well as bad characters I'll put it aside pretty quickly. Luckily the writing in this was great so I managed to finish it. I read a few reviews of The Dead Tossed Waves and it seems to be more of the same. Don't think I can handle it!

    Alexia: I found the writing to be very compelling so that at least is a positive. I just couldn't get past Mary as a character at all. The Sisterhood just made no sense and was pretty powerless in the end. The whole thing just seemed meaningless.

  15. This one has been on my list for a long time... maybe next Halloween...

  16. The book review is good and after reading it i think i should at least read it once but the story didn't seem that interesting. Thanks for sharing the post.


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