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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