Mary is a young girl living in a small village in which there are simple rules and traditions which everyone must follow. The Sisterhood has put these rules in place to protect the village from what lies outside of the fence surrounding the village. The Forrest of Hands and Teeth that surrounds the village is full of The Unconsecrated, or as you may be more familiar with them, zombies.
The book presents some really interesting moral questions about compliance and rebellion. Is it enough to be provided for without having the choice for yourself? Since the village is controlled by The Sisterhood, a group of women who are a lot like Catholic nuns, there are underlying religious issues. There is a major issue in the book of people blindly accepting the rulings of a church or governing organization. While these questions are presented, Carrie Ryan does a good job at leaving the answer up for debate. This book does not bombard its readers with one point of view. For the romance lovers there is also some romance. Mary is caught in between two brothers and has to decide if it is enough to be content or if she is willing to risk being with the man she feels true passion for. I think the most important issue Mary faces is simply the question of “What is enough?” Is it enough to have comfort and contentment? What does it mean when you have those things and you are still yearning for something more?
The premise does sound a lot like the movie The Village, and the community reminded me a little bit of The Giver, but I think it definitely brings something special that is all its own. I enjoyed the mix of zombie horror with the usual teen girl fantasy novel. The balance between plot and character is spot on. I often find it difficult to get through a book that is purely character driven. On the other hand, I cannot read a book in which I do not like or in some way feel for the characters. This book does a beautiful job of examining the character of Mary and the internal struggles she is going through while at the same time delivering a suspenseful and exciting plot. It is a very exciting read. I had the problem of wanting to read “just one more chapter” over and over again. There is a distinct cinematic quality to the book. Author, Carrie Ryan, doesn’t pull any punches. The readers experience the terror of living among the undead from the very beginning of the book. It is refreshing when you find a book or a movie in which you aren’t sure about the safety of anyone. Often, as a reader, I can tell exactly who will make it through because, “They have to”. This book tells you from the very beginning that even those who are the closest to Mary are not safe. Like most zombie literature, there isn’t a concrete ending. There is really no ending to the infection of The Unconsecrated and therefore the danger is never fully defeated. This leaves the book with the feeling that there could still be more to come, and like so many YA novels, there is a sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I really enjoyed the adventure this book takes the reader on, and I highly recommend it.