Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Publication Date: 2009
Price: $9.99 (paperback)
Interest Age: 14 and up
Lexile Level: 900
Annotation: Orphaned Mary seeks to find out what lies beyond the walls fences of her village.
Plot Summary: Imagine a future where your world consists of the village you live in surrounded by the Forest of Hands and Teeth – a forest that contains the Unconsecrated, zombie-like creatures that crave living human flesh. One bite from the Unconsecrated on a living human will turn them and they, in turn, become an Unconsecrated. This is Mary’s world. A world where the village she lives in is led by the Sisterhood and the fence, the barrier, between the forest and the village is protected by the Guardians. A world where the people are taught to dedicate themselves to the Lord (God) and that their purpose is to live, to continue (basically reproduce) so humanity can survive. Mary questions this existence. When she was young, her mom use to tell her stories of life prior to the Unconsecrated passed down from generations; stories of tall metal buildings and an endless ocean untouched by the infection. When Mary goes to live with the Sisters after her mom is infected and toss out into the Forest, the truths that she grew up learning from the Sisterhood begin to unravel. Mary begins to ponder of a life outside the fence walls and when the fence is breached, her whole life, and that of her friends, is thrown into chaos.
Critical Evaluation: When I first heard the summary of this novel, I immediately thought The Village (the movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan). The similarities with The Village is basically the plot – a village surrounded by woods/forest that people cannot enter because it contains dark creatures that will kill you and then the main character stumbles upon something that threatens to unravels that whole infrastructure of the village, etc. Carrie Ryan’s dark, post-apocalyptic novel is raw and ominous with an honest, brutal look at human nature, faith, love and hope. There were times when the story felt repetitious especially the constant see-saw love triangle with Mary, Harry and Travis and certain scenes could have been spiced up but, the layers of themes in this story make this a book worth discussing.
Author Bio: Carrie Ryan is the New York Times bestselling author of the Forest of Hands and Teeth series and the co-author of The Map to Everywhere. She lives with her husband, two cats, and a rescue mutt in Charlotte, North Carolina. (via Ingram)
Tie to Curriculum Units: N/A
Booktalking Ideas: Zombies, Postapocalyptic, Love Triangle, Survival
Challenge Issues: Both School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly give this book starred reviews. PW stated “Mary’s observant, careful narration pulls readers into a bleak but gripping story of survival and the endless capacity of humanity to persevere . . .Fresh and riveting.” Additionally, the book’s popularity led to a potential movie.