Book Reviews

Review: “The Forest of Hands and Teeth,” Carrie Ryan

March 9, 2011
Review: “The Forest of Hands and Teeth,” Carrie RyanThe Forest of Hands & Teethby Carrie Ryan
Series: The Forest of Hands & Teeth #1
Published by Delacorte on March, 2009
Genres: Dystopian, Survival, Zombies
Pages: 308

In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.

When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

I had been putting off starting this series for some unknown reason. I guess I didn’t want to start a new one until I’d finished some of my others. A chance find in the library made my resistance crumble. I started this one in the early evening and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it in the early hours of the morning. An irresistable read! Spoilers for the ending of the book included in the review!

WOW. This book just blew me away. It was the perfect dystopian/post-apocalyptic read. Although I see a lot of complaints about our protagonist, Mary, I didn’t really mind her. I think she was a good pair of eyes to experience this story through. Even though her mind was set on one thing – escaping and reaching the ocean – I did feel she learnt a LOT along the way.

This book pulled me in from the word ‘go’. Although the parts with Mary becoming a Sister in the Cathedral was a little tedious, I still read and read. Something inside me just knew an amazing story was going to explode onto the pages. I’m so glad I was right. I was kept up reading into the night until the very last page had been turned.

I found the labryinth of gates and paths intriguing. I particularly liked the fact that they were marked with Roman numerals. I could picture everything so vividly and it made the journey all the more enjoyable. I’m not sure how long after the Return (the infection that created the Unconsecrated) this story is set, but I’m pretty sure the ghostly shells of humanity before the plague still stand. I was absorbed by the intrigue of photos, dresses and newspapers from our time.

I really liked the relationship between Mary and Travis. I couldn’t understand initially why she didn’t feel he completed her, even after she ‘got’ him, but then again it IS refreshing to have a female character not let herself be defined by her love for a guy. Although Travis was seemingly perfect, and any other girl would have been happy to fall into a ‘normal’ life with him, Mary wasn’t satisfied and kept reaching for her dreams.

Spoilers for the ending of the book past this point!

I was sad when he died. I was not expecting that at all and to be honest I could’ve cried a little. It was just so… sudden… and I was expecting at least the both of them to make it out alive and start a new life. The same goes with Jed. I found myself completely empty when Mary reached the beach alone. Was all that death necessary for one singular person to accomplish her goal?

What happened to the others on the path? Are we to believe they’re dead? Did they go back to the isolated and burnt out village?

I want answers to these questions though I know they probably won’t be answered. I know the second book deals with Mary’s daughter and her journey, so the ending to this one was probably meant to be ambiguous. I also would like to find out what made Gabrielle so ‘fast’ and more capable than the Infected. I’m led to believe the Sisters were experimenting on her, keeping her in solitude as the scrawled notes indicated. I suppose this mystery will be delved into a little more with the next books.

I can’t wait to move on to The Dead-Tossed Waves! Carrie Ryan has indeed created a world I want to dive back into (though not in real life, that’s for sure) and I think it will be interesting to explore the rest of the story through a new pair of eyes, especially since they are directly tied to our first narrator.

Recommended to: Fans of post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction will enjoy this one, as well as new readers to the theme. I highly recommend it if you’re unsure about starting a dystopian reading spree! It’s a great starter.

About Carrie Ryan

Born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, Carrie Ryan is a graduate of Williams College and Duke University School of Law. A former litigator, she now writes full time. She lives with her writer/lawyer husband, two fat cats and one large rescue mutt in Charlotte, North Carolina. They are not at all prepared for the zombie apocalypse.


  • Reply Janine March 9, 2011 at 4:50 am

    Oh gosh, Travis’ death was so sudden and I really had to re-read that part to make absolutely sure that he died for real. Just couldn’t believe it.
    I must say, I’ve been putting off reading The Dead-Tossed Waves but find myself constantly looking for it in bookstores, so I guess that’s a sign that I should finally pick it up.
    Great review btw and I’m so jealous of your speedreading skills. LOL It takes me ages to finish reading books these days.

    • Reply Brittany March 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      I know, right? I was just gobsmacked! I wanted to break down and cry!

      Haha, that’s definitely a sign! I’m going to pick it up on my next trip to the library for sure. I saw it sitting there last time but I thought I should read the first one first :P

      Aww, thanks Janine for visiting! I guess I just have no other life these days lol

  • Reply Caitlin March 9, 2011 at 4:35 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed this! I read it a while ago so the details are a bit foggy, but I totally get what you mean about the passages and the gates in the woods, I could imagine them really vividly too. Great review

    • Reply Brittany March 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      Thank you! Yes, they were amazing! I really loved it!

  • Reply Jess @ Gone with the Words March 9, 2011 at 3:54 am

    Awesome review!! I felt the same way about Travis and the ending, You should definitely start The Dead-Tossed Waves soon! I’m rereading them right now. Just finished FoH&T and started TDTW.

    • Reply Brittany March 9, 2011 at 4:02 am

      Thank you! I know, right? I’m so sad! LOL! I will definitely start is as soon as possible! I just checked out your blog and I’m now a new follower of yours :)

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