The Forest of Hands & Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands & Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Series: The Forest of Hands & Teeth #1

Genre: Dystopia, Romance, Zombies, Horror Young-Adult

Published: July 2009 by Gollancz

The Plot

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?

The Review

 The Forest of Hands & Teeth was an interesting read for me. I don’t read that many zombie books nor do I really read that many dystopia type books, so I was curious to what Ryan would do. Frankly I had a very much love/hate relationship with this book. I agonized reading it over the plot direction, the decisions of the protagonist Mary and the heartbreak and then I’d put it down and yearn to read more. Quite clearly Ryan has a book that hooks and that cannot remain down for long, or not infinitely anyway because she makes you want this book resolved.

I’ll begin with Mary our protagonist who we follow for the story. She is selfish, annoying, deluded and most of all she is blinded by the unknown that she cannot see what is before her until it is lost. I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if within the first two chapters she had been bitten by a zombie and rampaged around and eaten everybody. Unfortunately, I am sorry to disappoint you, this does not happen for one second. She is not bitten, nor does she rampage… as a zombie at least. Still, the plot wouldn’t quite be the same which does hold some real strength. It’s just Mary was not a character I liked nor one I tried to like after she failed to impress me.

One point that is not in Mary’s favour that probably didn’t help me is the world she lives in. The Sisters who are basically nuns control the village, they are the law, the leaders and they have the knowledge and the secrets. The Sisters are rather creepy and whilst they lord over the village, they surprisingly make it a very sexist society. Do not expect to find women’s rights being waved in your face because the Sisters have a plan for women. Have them married, get them to have babies, have them care for the babies, have more babies and so on until they die… This is the basic plot of what the Sisters expect from the women of the village and for those that fail to do that… well… who knows if their history was ever written down or they join the Sisters.

“You are a Bound woman now, Mary. And you have a duty to your  husband, to God and this village. It is time to own up to that duty, Mary. It is time you stopped playing by the fences.”

Despite the Sisters forcing the women into such roles, they were a fantastically creepy, twisted and mysterious group of women who I was definitely curious about. Without a doubt Ryan has created a warped group of ‘do-gooders’ who believe they are working for the best of the village and it fits generally into the typical expectation of a post-apocalyptic/dystopia novel that somebody must be attempting to ‘save the race’ although badly. However, I thought that Ryan took a rather original tone to the Sisters and they didn’t seem to feel like they’re own living breathing entity that I could generally see existing in the world.

I have to admit, I found that there were some very cute moments in this novel and despite the rather heart-breaking and torturous moments of the novel, the deaths and all the zombies and gore, I thought Ryan interspersed a few moments to detract from the depressive tone of the novel. And the perfect way to do this is bring a fluffy bundle of puppy!

“The dog tumbles to the floor and runs in a few circles and then comes and wiggles over my feet, its tail sweeping items off a low table nearby. “A wedding present for  you, Mary,” he says, dipping his face a bit as if embarrassed.”

Now there are two main men in the novel. Harry and Travis. Yes.. I see your thoughts travelling directly to a big ol’ love triangle.

chains of love

This actually pretty much perfectly sums up the relationships in The Forest of Hands & Teeth and it makes me tempted to not really call it a love triangle because Mary never really loves one of the love interest and the one she is in ‘love’ with, she never truly commits to for most of the novel. The moments in which we do have romance though touched me and I found myself awwwing a little bit.

“He pulls my face toward him, his lips brushing mine, and then he places my head against his shoulder. His arms wrap rightly around me and I understand how he needs me. I curl against his body, let him twirl his fingers through my hair.”

The Forest of Hands & Teeth is not a happy novel, I didn’t find that it was full of fun and joy, but it does make you think. I despised the main character and that was probably what detracted from my enjoyment the most. The plot whilst in large had moments of predictability was surprising and engaging and did serve to have a few unexpected plot twists that made me flip through the pages a little faster. I don’t think there is anything astounding about this novel, but it has enjoyable moments and it’s not too long. I recommend a rainy day when you have lots of free time. This novel like Mary’s brother managed to redeem itself largely by the end and I think I’ll be reading the sequel since it’s not from Mary’s point of view. I’ll leave you on a quotation I liked from the book.

“I want to believe in hope.”

~ 3 / 5 BOOKS ~


Filed under 2009 Publication, 3 Books, Carrie Ryan, Dystopia, Gollancz, Hardback, Horror, Paranormal Reading Challenge, Romance, Young Adult, Zombies

25 responses to “The Forest of Hands & Teeth

  1. Danielle

    Excellent review. I’ve had this book on my kindle for ages and didn’t know it was about zombies (face palm). Ill give it a whirl at some stage.

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      Thank you! 🙂 I didn’t realise it was about zombies when I first picked it up either! haha.

  2. This book took me by surprise too Livvy, I’m not a huge fan of zombie books either, but like you said Ryan definitely had a brilliant way of keeping you engaged in the plot. I’m sorry the lack of connection with Mary ruined the book for you a little bit. But I totally plan on reading the next book soon too! Great review! 🙂

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      She certainly did. Definite shame, but I’m looking forward to the next book. Thanks, Jasprit! 🙂

  3. Yeah, what initially drew me into this book was the weird religion/society that they have. There was so much mystery there that I was drawn in rather quickly. I was kind of disappointed to learn that the mysterious religion doesn’t surface again in the other two books, but by that point I was so hooked on the story that it didn’t matter. I’m curious to see how you feel about the main character of the next one. 😀

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      Ahh well I’m kind of glad that the mystery/religion is gone, but in a way I feel like we should know more about that. I’m glad you managed to stay hooked though, as there may be hope for me yet! 🙂

  4. Hahaha I love that you wanted her to go on a killing spree 😛
    Ugh another love triangle 😦 It sounds quite a bit like the village so might check it out from the library.
    Fab review as always, Livvy!

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      I checked my copy out from the library, so definitely the way to go especially since it only just reaches 300 pages. Still it wasn’t a bad love triangle per say since the main character never really loved the other guy. Yes, of course I did, this is a zombie book! haha. Thank you! 🙂

  5. So glad you reviewed this one because I am reading it this week..Aidan has started it and so far he is giving it a mixed review..

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      Yes, it took me a while to get into it, so tell him to keep going. I think it redeems things by the end a little! 🙂

      • Aidan’s standing right here and I’m relaying your comments to him! He still looks cynical tho. 😉

        • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

          haha. I’m honestly not surprised. I nearly gave up. Unfortunately tell him she never goes on a killing spree as a zombie to spice things up! That should make him ever so less cynical! 😉

  6. I read this awhile ago and like you, really want to read the sequel because I am intrigued but I just haven’t done it yet. I need to step it up and add it to my immediate TBR!

  7. Ohh, I’d almost forgotten about this book. I don’t remember anymore whether or not I ended up finishing this. I think that the things you pointed out as bothering you bothered me even more than it did you. Are you going to read the second book?

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      I think I’ll try the second book since I heard things get better, but who knows… It probably won’t be any time soon that I try reading it.

  8. I started this one maybe four or five times and each time I had to drop it because it was too depressing right from the very start. You’re right, it’s not a happy book, and I have to be in the mood for it before i dare to pick it up again. But I will… eventually. Great review.

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      You will definitely have to be in the mood to get through this one because it isn’t a happy book. Hope you manage to read it an “enjoy” it eventually! 🙂

  9. It has been so long since I read this one but remember enjoying. I don’t do much zombie either so surprised me.

  10. I feel very much the same way you did when reading this—it was depressing, especially as a woman, to read about this backward, cloistered community, and even more so as the desperation escalates for Mary, Travis and the other characters. Mary annoyed the crap out of me, but I still found myself mesmerized by the story. I liked the sequels much better than the first book. I hope you enjoy them if you continue on with the series. I love your eloquent, thoughtful review!

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the sequels more as it seems we have similar thoughts on the first one. Thank you! 🙂

  11. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t like Mary, because she was a great character in my eyes, but I just have a thing for flawed characters, I guess. Ryan made me fall in love with the whole zombie genre. I like how dark this story is, but I never felt depressed by it. I didn’t mind the somewhat love-triangle and I felt so sad. Travis was sweet. Great review! 🙂 I thought the next book was less interesting, but the last one is WOW.

    • Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews

      I like flawed characters, I just didn’t like Mary. I can see why she made you fall in love with the genre and I’m looking forward to trying the next two. However I did think Travis was sweet! Thanks! 🙂

  12. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves (29) | Nerdy Book Reviews

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