Friday, July 10, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Okay, I'll just come right out and say that this book was a big disappointment to me. I know that it puts me in the minority, probably somewhere right at the bottom of the list but I just could not make myself care for the story and the characters at all.

Let me first go over the plot, which is probably not necessary as most of the readers out there already have heard about it. But the plot summary is always in order. As the story begins, we meet Mary who lives in a tiny village surrounded by the Unconsecrated (another word for zombies) and the only thing that separates the world of zombies from the world of the living is chain link fence (ahem, how tall is that fence or how strong that it kept the zombies at bay for generations?). Mary is a teenager ready to be married and start her own family when her mother goes out too far into the Forest of Hands and Teeth (where zombies reign supreme) and gets bitten by one of the Unconsecrated. At this moment Mary's world as she knew it ceases to exist. Her brother Jeb, who can't forgive Mary for letting their mother live and become one of the zombies, gives her away to the Sisterhood, who have more secrets that the author bothers to share with the readers. Mary is miserable, she loves a person who cannot be with her and his brother is the one who finally speaks for her (proposes to her), but she doesn't love him and she wants to get away from the village and find the ocean her mother had talked about. Mary finally gets her chance when the village is breached, the Unconsecrated turn or kill all the inhabitants, apart from, of course the most important characters: Mary, Harry, Mary's brother Jeb, Mary's love Travis and her former best friend, Cas, plus a little boy Jacob (why he's thrown in there I have no idea, maybe to help preserve the human species in the future). Okay my head hurts already. The rest is history...or future.

To be fair to the author, I think that the story is interesting and her portrayal of Mary's despair and unhappiness engaging. To a point. But when I realized that Mary was going to be the only character described in depth and all others might as well have been zombies for all the insight given the reader, I lost interest completely. I am not sure whether Mary was supposed to come off as a self-absorbed, egocentric young woman or not. If it was intentional, then it has definitely been achieved. Then again, if I have to wonder about it then one way or another something just isn't right.

Another thing going against this book was that I listened to it on audio and the narrator killed the story. The whole book was read in a monotonous tone of reading the telephone book. I actually think that the person reading the introduction about who recorded the book, the title, the author and the narrator put more intonation and emotion into her voice than the narrator. I simply could not tell when Mary was happy, sad or horrified. All and all, the narration was very robotic and the only reason I kept listening to it was because I hoped that it would get better. It didn't.

Lastly, I am not a die-hard fan of Young Adult fiction. I do enjoy some books (The Book Thief, Hunger Games, Inkheart, to name a few) but because I do not love it, it's probably difficult to fully satisfy me and what faults I can justify in genres I love, I cannot overlook in this one. As far as the dystopian theme that is resurfacing in contemporary fiction goes, if it's done well I love it. But, yet again, I am more of a King's The Stand girl than The Forest of Hands and Teeth one.

Book Info:

Author: Carrie Ryan
Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Published By: Random House
In: 2009
Recorded by: Listening Library
Narrator: Vane Millon