Yes, it’s a book about zombies, and if you are a fan of that genre, then you are not going to be disappointed. But it is also a book about people and we can see ourselves reflected in the characters and the choice that they make.
The story is told through the voice of Mary. She is a young woman who has lost her family and who is now forced to live in a village that is enclosed to keep the zombies out. But it feels more like a prison to those who are being “protected” inside. Mary’s story makes this book perfect for a young audience. That’s why you can also find it in our selection of the best teen Zombie books.
Outside the fence is where the zombies lurk – baying for the blood of the humans they can smell. That place is called The Forest of Hands and Teeth. It is full of the Unconsecrated who wander around through the trees searching for human flesh to devour. With their outstretched arms, gnashing teeth and rasping sounds, they terrorize the living who are forced to stay on the other side of the fence.
Because she finds herself alone, Mary must go and live with The Sisterhood. They are the sacred authority group who rule the village with an iron rod. Mary finds out that The Sisterhood is not all that they appear to be and their motives and actions are not in the interests of those who have taken refuge there.
They keep deep, dark secrets from the inhabitants of the village. Mary, who has become disenchanted with The Guardians, feels betrayed by those she was meant to trust and that puts her life at risk in the place where she was meant to find safety.
When the fences are penetrated by the Unconsecrated, Mary knows that the time has come for her to leave the safe haven. She wants to live her own life and follow her dreams. For many years she has remembered the stories her mother told her about the ocean and now she sees a chance to follow that dream.
In The Forest of Hands and Teeth book series, we are allowed to imagine a post-apocalyptic world, with all the fear and uncertainty that the living has to contend with. The villagers have no idea of what happened in the past, nor what caused The Return.
They do not know who built the fence that encloses them and no-one will provide answers to all their questions. They are forced to live in ignorance- a state that The Sisterhood does everything to maintain. The reason they do that is that it suits their sinister purposes.
Mary, the heroine of the story, is a strong and passionate woman who can think for herself. She also has a powerful trait, the fact that she has hope in the face of adversity and the courage to follow her dreams. She is prepared to take risks and keep going even if the journey is fraught with danger.
Reviews say that the writing of Carrie Ryan has a poetic flow and would recommend it as a brilliant read whether you are a fan of zombie books or not. The Forest of Teeth and Hands has a bit of everything you need in this genre – a credible plot, a strong heroine and a sinister religious sect that keep people, prisoners, by deception. And, of course, there is some extreme violence. Well, it would not be a zombie book without it.
But this is a book for young adults and they should be able to make an informed decision about whether they can handle some gruesome deaths. Many will also find the cruel attitude towards The Unconsecrated distasteful, but it fits with the plot and is not gratuitous in my opinion.