Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review: The forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan

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'm honestly not sure what to do about this book. The world Ryan creates is well thought-out, the Unconsecrated are terrifying, and the choices some of the characters have to make are heart wrenching. 


I'd have to say my biggest problem with this book is the portrayal of the marriage system. After the Return, there are few survivors, and they live in a tightly controlled religious community. Divorce is unheard of, and commitment, not "true love," is the driving force in marriages. And that's a bad thing. As a (happily) married woman, I argue that commitment is as important, if not more, than our emotions, in making a marriage last. Even the most passionately in love don't always feel that way, and like the book, our marriage vows promise our spouses AND GOD that we will be together good times or bad. The love story in The Forest of Hands and Teeth leads the reader to hope the characters break those vows, which, BTW, one character admits to planning on, before even making.  In a society where half the marriages end in divorce, the LAST thing we need is a book geared toward teens that makes commitment and religion the enemy. (Steps off soap box)

I really didn't like Mary as a MC. Through the whole book she hates herself for being reckless and selfish (and she's right) but she never changes, just keeps making the same mistakes over and over. It made reading a little boring, because I always knew what choice she'd make.  There is a sequel to this one, and hopefully she shows some growth in it. As far as Travis, her love interest, the reader knows nothing about him, except that he has green eyes. I need more than that to root for a relationship (above comments aside) and I honestly just didn't care about them. 

I had a hard time getting a visual idea about the setting, except in the treetop village, and I really didn't always know what was going on. This could have been because of the present-tense writing, or because Ryan was trying to do too much at once. Either way, I was more confused then scared, and my feelings for the characters bordered on apathetic. In the end, I can't recommend this one to anybody, but if you've read it and feel differently, maybe you can help me understand it.

YS Notes: See above
Rating: NONE


  1. i actually really loved this world, and the writing. and while i'm always wary of books that paint religion as the bad guy, i think in this book the religion really is a bad guy... instead of just a religion. the whole thing about commitment... while i agree with everything you said, for these characters at their ages (and i was married as a teenager, so i can kind of relate) i think the whole prospect of commitment is a very scary and uncertain thing.

    but, i'm with you on mary. she annoyed THE HECK outta me! argh!!! she kinda ruined the book for me in a way, because i disliked her that much. but i think the writing was clear, i could always see in my mind's eye what was happening, but then, i read incredibly slowly and won't move on until i can see it...

    all this to say:
    THE DEAD-TOSSED WAVES is not a sequel, it is a companion novel. and so you don't spend the novel inside mary's head. which for me, was like the worst thing about the forest of hands and teeth. i enjoyed T D-T W MUCH more. i liked the characters better, and i enjoyed the changing of scenery! there are different societies in this one so, your distaste for the painting of that religion in TFOHAT won't be revisited (i believe) i actually really, really enjoyed it WAY more than the first. so, i guess i'm saying,if you loved the world, you should give it a shot, but check it out from the library so you can return it if you're hating on it...