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The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (edition 2010)

by Carrie Ryan (Author)

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3,3903521,600 (3.61)1 / 223
Title:The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Authors:Carrie Ryan (Author)
Info:Ember (2010), 336 pages
Collections:Public Library, Reviewed, Read but unowned
Tags:young adult, horror, dystopia, 3 stars, carrie ryan

Work details

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

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    Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Tanglewood)
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    The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell (SunnySD)
    SunnySD: Zombies galore - beginnings and endings at the ocean.
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    The Road by Cormac McCarthy (kqueue)
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    The Passage by Justin Cronin (ahstrick)
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    Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (BrynDahlquis)
    BrynDahlquis: The apocalyptic/tragic plot is quite similar, though one has zombies and the other has a homicidal moon.
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    Hollowland by Amanda Hocking (clif_hiker)

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Showing 1-5 of 351 (next | show all)
It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that teenagers must love dystopian literature. They just love a little apocalypse. I’ve read some great YA books this year and it seems the best of them feature the world after some sort of cataclysmic end has occurred. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is probably the most heartbreaking, yet hopeful one I’ve read yet.

Mary lives in a small village in the middle of a very large forest with her mother. In many ways her life isn’t all that different from any other girl her age. She helps with the chores. She also has a brother, a sister-in-law and a best friend named Cassandra. But then, she’s very, VERY different. Her father went into the forest many days ago and she has all but given up hope of him coming home alive. Her village is controlled by a totalitarian and very religious group called The Sisterhood and is surrounded on all sides by a fence; a fence that is designed to keep out the Unconsecrated – a mass of mindless undead, hungry for the living flesh that lives on the inside, and who were unleashed many, many years ago by a mysterious and catastrophic incident.

“My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away. She once showed me a picture that she said was my great-great-great grandmother standing in the ocean as a child. It has been years since, and the picture was lost to fire long ago, but I remember it, faded and worn. A little girl surrounded by nothingness.”

Mary is a great character. Her mother has filled her head with tales of the ocean and the world before the Unconsecrated existed. Like all teenagers, she’s willful and very stubborn, but she’s also a dreamer and a doer, someone who isn’t afraid to take a chance to get what she wants. She dreams of seeing the ocean someday and there is nothing that will stand in her way. I would not have minded a little more strength in the secondary characters, but they were interesting in their own ways and were good supports for Mary. She was definitely the most well drawn of them all. She’s flawed, but you can’t help rooting for her.

This book starts with a bit of a bang (to put it mildly) and then it slows down a bit before speeding to the end. I liked that slow build up, as I thought it was a story that needed that slow, paced build up to the climax. There is a lot of background to get into, characters to meet, their history to learn, the history of the tiny village Mary lives in, the history of the Unconsecrated, the whole government, belief system and values to be set up…and I thought Ryan did a fantastic job. The slowness didn’t bother me a bit, because I found it all so FASCINATING. Even though the book is set in a very dystopian future, it felt very puritanical to me, which I liked about it. It felt very Nathanial Hawthorne meets George Romaro. But, please, please don’t let the “zombie” part put you off. While there are a few parts that will have you on the edge of your seat, it’s not as scary as you might fear. It’s not sugar-coated either, but really, I think you should give it a shot. For a first novel especially, I thought the writing was good. There were a few weak parts, a few questions I wouldn’t mind having answered, but I’m hoping they will be in the next part of the series. If you enjoyed recent YA read The Hunger Games, you will definitely like this book. I don’t compare the story or the writing, but more the FEELING I had reading each. Both left me breathless and anxious for more. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is nothing, if not a page-turner.
( )
  capriciousreader | Mar 20, 2018 |
It was ~really~ good, as horror, as it made me very uncomfortable (I can get grossed out by horror, or uneasy... the second being the more successful in my mind) ( )
  kmajort | Feb 9, 2018 |
This three-star rating is perfectly solid. I did like this book-- I especially like the thought-provoking world the story is set in. What happens when people turn to religion to explain the unexplainable? How do people use disasters to restrict the rights of a class of people? For starting conversations, this would be a great book to share. ( )
  LibrarianJen | Dec 1, 2017 |
Well, that was not a very good book. "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" is such an awesome title. Unfortunately, it's all downhill after that. (All that follows has spoilers, though there isn't much of a plot to spoil.)
I find it mind boggling that there are any good reviews, and that as of my writing, 355 people have read and reviewed this awful book.

A zombie apocalypse came at some point in the distant past. Mary, a protagonist/narrator who ranges from mildly irritating to intensely unlikable, lives in a small village, ruled by the Sisterhood. Are they nuns? Is the religion they practice and teach Christianity or something else? Not clear. It is established that the Sisterhood has many deep dark secrets... but don't expect any of them to be revealed or have any relevance to the plot. Halfway through the book, Mary's village is overrun by the "Unconsecrated" (zombies) and she and a few others escape, but none of the Sisters escape, so whatever their secrets were, they are lost.
A good story does not tell the reader that certain characters have secrets, intricately relevant to the plot, and then never even hint at what those secrets are.
And then there is the romance side of the book, which is equally unsatisfying. Mary is in love with Travis, who is betrothed to Cass. Travis' brother Harry is betrothed to Mary. Will she end up with Harry, who loves her, but whom she doesn't love? Or will she end up with Travis, who she loves, and he loves her, but for some reason made his proposal to someone else? Well, doesn't matter, because for all the pining Mary does over her love for Travis, no relationship ever develops between them, or between Mary and Harry.
And at the end of the book, Mary is separated from the few members of her party who are still alive, and that's it. No explanation of what happened to the others.
Perhaps all of this is explained in a sequel. I will never know, because this book wasn't good enough to invest any time into reading a sequel. ( )
  fingerpost | Nov 25, 2017 |
This review was updated on A Weebish Book Blog as part of my TBT Review feature. Review published on 10/12/2017.

My first thought after I finished THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH: WTF did I just read? No, seriously, WTF. I couldn’t coherently put into words how I felt about this book. I’m still not one hundred percent sure if I liked this book enough to even give it three stars, but since I’m itching to read book two I figured it means something. Or at least that the cliffhanger from hell ending worked. One thing I do know for sure? Carrie Ryan is one sadistic author.


1 - Three-fourths of the way in I hated every single main character, but by the end of the novel I had somehow forgiven them all for being such selfish, greedy people and making their own desires more important than the lives of their loved ones

I forgave Mary for making her dreams more important than her loved ones and for her whiny and ungrateful attitude, Jed winning the World’s Worst Big Brother award, Cass for letting jealousy ruin the best thing in her life and blindly following the Sisters without asking why, and Harry and Travis for making a girl more important than family (have you never heard the phrase bros before hoes?!). This is your FAMILY. You can always find another girl, you can’t always find more siblings.

2 - Anything cruel she can possibly heap on her characters—she will.

Things continue to go from bad to worse for these kids and they just can’t catch a break! How can authors be so mean? I would grow way too attached and make them all live in a plastic bubble. This is probably why I am a reader and not an author.

3 - She left me with so unanswered questions that left me unbelievably unsatisfied.

How did the Unconsecrated (zombies) “return”? Why? When? I hate unanswered questions. I hope she answers my questions in the next couple of books or else I will be deeply disappointed.

4 - That. F*cking. Cliffhanger.

I’m so confused about my feelings for THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. On one hand, Ryan’s writing hooked me instantly. On the other, I just wanted to punch all the characters until they started thinking like rational human beings.


If the sequel doesn’t seriously wow me, I probably won’t continue the series for fear of losing brain cells from repeatedly bashing my head into the wall. Until then, give THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH a try so we can whine and moan and sort out our complex emotional issues together. ( )
  aweebishbookblog | Oct 12, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 351 (next | show all)
The story is riveting, even though it leaves a lot of questions to be explained in the sequel.
added by Katya0133 | editSchool Library Journal, Debra Banna

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Carrie Ryanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Millon, VaneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Mary habite un village entouré d'une clôture. Derrière, les Damnés, revenus de la mort, rôdent dans la forêt, avides de chair humaine... Comment franchir la Forêt des Damnés ?
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385736827, Paperback)

Amazon Exclusive: Scott Westerfeld Reviews The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Scott Westerfeld is the author of three sets of books for young adults, including the Uglies series, the Midnighters series, and a series of stand-alone novels set in contemporary New York, including So Yesterday, Peeps, and The Last Days. Both Uglies and Peeps were named Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association in 2006. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of The Forest of Hands and Teeth:

Teenagers love a good apocalypse. Who doesn't? All those annoying rules suspended. Society's pretenses made irrelevant. Malls to be looted. School out forever.

But in The Forest and Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan's marvelous debut novel, the post-apocalypse is defined more by constraints than freedoms. The book begins seven generations after the Return, an undead plague that has ended civilization as we know it. Of course, a zombie outbreak usually means shotguns and mall looting--the very essence of freedom. But more than a century on from the Return, the malls have already been looted, and shotguns are a distant memory. The novel's heroine, Mary, lives in a village surrounded by one last vestige of industrial technology: a chain-link fence, beyond which is a vast forest full of shambling, eternally ravenous undead--the forest of hands and teeth. No villager ever goes outside this fence, unless they want to die. (And given this bleak scenario, some do.)

Mary's world is bounded not only by the fence but by the archaic traditions of her people, which are enforced by a religious order called the Sisterhood. Marriages, childbirth, death, every stage of life must be controlled to sustain the village's precarious existence. Even the houses are circumscribed--literally--with passages of scripture carved into every entrance to remind the inhabitants of the rules that sustain human life amid the horrors of the forest.

After so long an isolation, the village is beginning to forget. Some doubt that there really was a time before the Return, with giant cities and wondrous technologies. Others believe that nothing at all exists beyond the forest of hands and teeth. And nobody but Mary and her slightly mad mother believes in something called "the ocean," a huge and unbounded space beyond the reach of the undead.

Mary is the sort of teenager who dreams of bigger things. Not just the ocean, but epic romance and adventure beyond the fence, maybe even other villages somewhere out there, safe behind their own fences. She believes that answers can be found to questions like, What made the Return happen? And what was it like before?

Escaping the confines of home for the greater world is, of course, one of the great themes of teen literature. But few heroes in any genre have faced an obstacle as daunting as the forest of hands and teeth. Though Ryan's writing is as lyrical as her title, this novel is driven by the same grim relentlessness that animates any good zombie film. Elegant prose and undead hordes combine to create a story where high drama feels completely unforced, where tension is constant, and where an image as simple as the open sea is achingly romantic.

Zombies have been metaphors for many things: consumerism, contagion in an overpopulated world, the inevitability of death. But here they resonate with a particularly teenage realization about the world--that social limits and backward traditions are numberless and unstoppable, no matter how shambling they may seem at first.

And yet we must try to escape them anyway, lest we wither inside the fence.--Scott Westerfeld

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Carrie Ryan

We had the opportunity to chat with Carrie Ryan over e-mail about her first novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Here’s what Carrie had to say about George Romero, the growing popularity of young adult fiction, and how she's preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

Amazon.com: You have said you began your writing career intending to write “chick lit.” How, then, did you come to write The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which, on first glance, is a far cry from that genre?

Carrie Ryan: In college many of the short stories I wrote were fairly dark but I’d always heard the advice that you should write what you read and at the time I loved to read romantic comedies and chick lit. So when I decided to attempt a novel, that’s what I tried to write even though it didn’t fit my natural tone. In fact, when I first tried to write a romantic comedy I had to constantly pull myself away from writing dark (and the reason I never tried to sell that book is because too many characters die which wasn’t very comedic!). Even the young adult chick lit I was working on tended to be dark--the main character interned at a coroners office and was surrounded by death.

So writing The Forest of Hands and Teeth was more of me embracing my true voice. I think I’d been scared to just indulge in it before, afraid that there wouldn’t be a market for it (and in fact, even when I was writing The Forest of Hands and Teeth I was convinced it wasn’t saleable). As soon as I jotted down the first line I decided to write it the way I wanted--to experiment and push the bounds and not worry about the market or what other people would think. This was the story I realized I had to tell when my fiancé suggested, “write what you love.”

Amazon.com: Your book has drawn inevitable comparison to the archetypal zombie flick, Night of the Living Dead. How does Mary’s world differ from the world George Romero created more than 40 years ago? Are the movies what first got you hooked on zombies?

Ryan: George Romero has really sparked a lot of imaginations and while any book or movie with zombies inevitably owes a massive debt to Romero's world, I tend not to think of The Forest of Hands and Teeth as a "zombie book," but rather a book that happens to have zombies in it. The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which takes place generations after the apocalypse, is really about a girl struggling with growing up, desire, and a controlling society set against the backdrop of a world with zombies (called “Unconsecrated”) constantly pushing against the fences. The characters have already come to terms with the Return (the zombie apocalypse) and know nothing else: this is their world and they've accepted it.

Romero's movies, on the other hand, deal more directly with the zombies--the plot arc of Night of the Living Dead is having to reckon with and defend against a zombie apocalypse as it occurs. In Romero's world the characters are still trying to fight against the zombies, still trying to reclaim the world of "before." In my book, the "before" time is lost, beyond memory, and the Unconsecrated are not so much the focal point as a part of the setting.

I do think watching the remake of Dawn of the Dead sparked my interest in zombies and led to my watching other zombie movies, including Romero's. One of the things I love the best about his movies, and something that inspired me, is that while they may appear to be simply zombie flicks on the surface, they're actually a commentary on society and are often a reflection of societal fears.

Like many other authors and directors, I wanted to use zombies as a mirror for the characters in my book. In the end, though, what influenced me most was the idea of a girl growing up trapped in a village that has forgotten everything and her hope that there could be something more beyond the menace in the Forest surrounding them, and that's what The Forest of Hands and Teeth is really about.

Amazon.com: Many young adult books with post-apocalyptic settings have been gaining a wide adult fan base--Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games and Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It are a couple of examples. Why do you think these books are attracting a wider audience?

Ryan: It’s been really exciting to see so many young adult books find such popularity with adult readers and I’ve loved re-introducing both my mom and sister to the young adult section. In the past I think readers have “graduated” to adult books and there’s been this feeling that young adult books are “just for teens” and are therefore somehow lighter and less substantive. While there have always been phenomenal young adult books published every year, it’s really felt like there’s been a renaissance recently: more books that are pushing the boundaries in every way.

Not only are a lot of sophisticated young adult books being published, but they’re accessible to everyone--most adults can remember those years of their life and tap into those emotions and feelings. But even more, so many of these books also tap into adult emotions and feelings: how to survive, figuring out what matters in life, struggling with changing relationships. These books make us question our decisions and ourselves and, especially in the current atmosphere of apprehension in the world, people are looking inward to what really matters to them.

Ultimately, I like to think that the bottom line is there are just really really great books in the young adult section and that great books will find a wide audience, no matter where they’re placed.

Amazon.com: In The Forest of Hands and Teeth, no one seems to know how the Unconsecrated (the zombies that live outside the village gates) first came into existence. What do you suspect would trigger the zombie apocalypse?

Ryan: This is actually one of my favorite parts of any zombie book or movie: seeing how the apocalypse is triggered. There are so many different ways it can happen (and has happened)! Aliens, séances, military and medical experiments gone wrong, parasites, environmental mishaps. You name it, it’s caused the zombie apocalypse (I’m still waiting for a movie with chocolate overindulgence as the trigger!)

But I actually made a conscious decision to leave the cause of the Return a mystery in The Forest of Hands and Teeth. One reason is that I wanted to show how knowledge and history could erode so drastically over time. The characters in my book have been so isolated and controlled that they think the ocean is a myth; they have no conception of the world before the Return.

Ultimately, I recognized that the cause of the Return doesn’t matter to the characters or the story. There are so many books and movies that focus on why and how such an apocalypse occurs but my book takes place so long after the event that it’s meaningless. I really wanted to draw that distinction between my world and other zombie worlds: that it doesn’t matter how or why or what triggered the zombie apocalypse, just that it happened and that’s the world they live in now.

Amazon.com: So, how are you preparing for the zombie apocalypse?

Ryan: We’re not at all prepared! It’s funny, shortly after seeing my first zombie movie I dreamt there was a zombie apocalypse and how I would handle it if stuck in the apartment I was living in at the time. Even after waking up I kept trying to figure out how I would survive (how to defend myself, get water, find help, etc.). I’ve since thought through similar issues with every place we’ve lived sort of as a fun thought experiment and I’ve come to the conclusion that we were much safer when we lived in a top floor apartment than our one-story house with too many windows!

To prepare, I just continue to read books, watch movies and am currently trying to train my puppy to be a zombie-sniffing dog.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:49 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Through twists and turns of fate, orphaned Mary seeks knowledge of life, love, and especially what lies beyond her walled village and the surrounding forest, where dwell the Unconsecrated, aggressive flesh-eating people who were once dead.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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