The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Adventures do things to me. It’s a requirement of travel that anytime I am out of town, I buy a new book.

Dangerous philosophy, but it makes for memorable reading and is an excuse to visit bookstores. Fair enough, right?

So a visit with  Snifferblog included a trip to an interesting coffee shop containing a used bookstore. Imagine my delight. And my instant gravitation to the tiny YA section tucked into the corner that some people didn’t even know was there. And when I stumbled upon a book I’ve been meaning to read, how could I say no? I mean, have you seen the spines on Carrie Ryan’s books?

So there I was, new book in hand. What I found inside its pages grabbed me, and then…bit really hard on my fingers.

The_Forest_of_Hands_and_Teeth_pb_coverThe Forest of Hands and Teeth

  • Author: Carrie Ryan
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • Year: 2009
  • Genre Vibe: Post-apocalyptic cult-horror zombies.
  • At a glance: That’s basically all you need to know, not going to lie.

So Carrie Ryan is a beautiful person. I heard her speak at NTTBF last year, and her story in Slasher Girls and Monster Boys was the single most unnerving thing I’ve read all year. She’s quite the lady.

I just don’t know what to do with her book.

See, Forest of Hands and Teeth is a neat little concept wrapped up in some beautiful writing and made of things that are completely weird. Usually not in a very good way, which means I feel like this book can be summed up by saying “Mary gets very angry very easily and sometimes she pokes zombies with sticks. Other people die.”

In doing what this book was meant to as far as genre goes, it succeeded completely. It weirded me out, jump scared me once or twice, and made me think about the condition of zombies and what place they have or don’t have in any given world and how humans always react to them. As a piece of technical horror: this book is brilliant.

But as far as order of events, and readability goes? I admit to being pretty lost once the weird stuff started to happen. Mary’s mother gets turned into a zombie: awesome. Mary deals with internal struggles following her death: even better (seriously the best part of the book.). Zombies attack the village: definitely good.

Mary occasionally empathizing with the zombies, or completely forgetting they exist while surrounded by them? …not quite so much.

Mary is a very troubled girl with at least some level of insanity to a point. But some of the things she thinks and does just don’t make sense. Like she’s leading you one way and only taking part of you with her. I could take the romantic distress as legitimate, but when she started doing things like trying to identify zombies and poking the masses of them with spears? I had to look at her just a little askance.

Because the sad thing is: Mary’s character arc is incredible. She lost everything, and then every new thing she tried to take for herself got taken from her. She lost her heart and a little bit of her mind and anything she could’ve called her own save her all-consuming desire for the ocean. But the way she went about achieving this path of character change wasn’t interesting or even very emotional. It was just strange, and at times very, very abrupt.

Forest of Hands and Teeth was addictive and gripping, but it really gnawed on a couple of my peeves. And yet still the need to know how the whole story ends makes me think I ought to read the rest of the books.

So…mission accomplished, if you want to look at it that way.

But overall:

  • Rating: 2.5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: I dunno, do you like weird things and love triangles tinged with lust and madness? Then this book might be for you,  as long as the ‘weird things’ part is a prominent feature in your book tastes.
  • Lasting impression: I dunno if I said this before but Mary once poked a mass of zombies with a long stick and I’m just never going to forget that.
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No Mourners, No Funerals.

11802053_633573026746112_1974274384_nSo, it’s been awhile since Six of Crows came out. And it’s been a little less than that since I finished it. And in that amount of time this blog post hasn’t gotten a single bit easier to write. This book really was something special, and my reading experience with it was as well.

For one thing: This book is not at all what it seems at first glance. I didn’t tap into excerpts, didn’t pay much attention or do much research on it before it came out. I’ve been a Bardugo fan for a while, and so when she said “Ocean’s Eleven meets Game of Thrones”, I couldn’t care less what came after that.

For another thing: I got to go to the launch party the day before release. It was a milestone, a miracle, and one of the single best nights of my entire life.

Book events in and of themselves are special things. Unmatched is the energy of a room full of people excited to be at an instant gratification event for something that will take them hours to fully enjoy. Costumes and things everywhere, stacks of books for purchase on tables. At this particular event, the walls were lined with buildings (which you can sort of see in some of the pictures) and the only lights were those strung overhead.

When you stepped into that room in the Irving Library, you stepped onto the streets of Ketterdam.

The wrapping for 6oC inspired ice cream sandwiches. It's edible. So I'm told.

The wrapping for 6oC inspired ice cream sandwiches. It’s edible. So I’m told.

When I specifically stepped into that room, I let out an inhuman wail and proceeded to fall into one of my friends, overcome as I was by the magnitude of the event. This place, this moment in time, simply sang of something special.

And if any of you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know that’s what we’re all about, here.

So, mingling happened. Bracelets were created with stamps from all the characters on them. Anticipation grew, and grew, and grew, and grew–

And Leigh came out on stage.

Something special always happens when authors appear. It never fails. The crowd can tell that the object of their undying affections has appeared and will now proceed to impart bookish wisdom and laughter upon them.

Leigh spoke of magical things, like eleven-year-old her’s dramatic poetry (quite possibly the best poem I’ve ever heard in my life, miss Bardugo) and the things that influenced Six of Crows. She answered questions and delighted us with her tales, as always she will. 12166543_633573053412776_310059588_nShe made us laugh and cry and then laugh some more, because Leigh Bardugo is queen and by god does she know how to run a party.

Leigh is, most probably, my favorite author that I’ve interacted with thus far. Everyone I’ve met has been incredible, but Leigh has a very genuine sort of way with her fans that I admire like hell. She puts everyone at ease and she smiles right back at you, and that’s something that I love very, very much about her and a quality that comes through in her writing as well.

Which brings me to the actual book. Put simply, this is how I feel about it:

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Okay, a little more seriously though. This book is very hard to review and very, very hard to recommend. I’ve decided to call it a niche book, despite its wide publicity and major appeal.

Why?

Well, because it is. I’ve heard Leigh pitch it as “Ocean’s Eleven meets Game of Thrones”, which is pretty accurate. But what Six of Crows is, pure and simply, is a con story. And it’s a con story with a very particular mastermind.

There are very few con stories in teen lit, period, and even fewer that drive forward on the axle that this Kaz Brekker. Characters like Kaz are dynamic and rely mostly on the way their inner struggle influences their outward path of living. They’re charismatic, often unkind, and always intimidating. Characters like this draw audiences with their gusto, but they’re a special kind of character that only keeps its influence over those that understood something about them.

Kaz is the very definition of this character type, making Six of Crows a high-impact book…to a select group of people. He is unfathomably real, and I think that’s why Six of Crows may have an underlying hum rather than buzz. This book will make its way into the hands and heads of a lot of people, but I believe it’s a book that’s really truly meant straight up to find its way into the heart of others, and those are the ones that will…well, remember it.

Because I can praise the con day in and day out. I can praise Leigh’s writing and her misdirection and how her story world still has me living in it three weeks later. I can tell you exactly how well each of the characters worked together and how natural they all seemed and how sad I am for each of them, but I don’t think it would make an impact, because I’m not sure this is a book I can recommend. I think if you want it badly enough you can find it for yourself.

Because I think Six of Crows is the book some people have been looking for for a while. And I think those are books that are meant to be found.