The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Mary and her neighbors live a simple, quiet life in a fenced-in village, not by choice but because of the zombie hoard – known as the Unconsecrated – that constantly attempt to bring down the walls and infect or eat the villagers. The village is guided and protected by the Sisterhood, a group of cruel, nun-like religious leaders, and the Guardians, men who repair and defend the fence. When Mary is passed over for marriage, she is forced to join the Sisterhood and discovers a dark secret. Before she can expose them or investigate more, the Unconsecrated breech the village walls, causing Mary, her two competing love interests, her best friend, her brother, her sister-in-law, a random kid, and a dog go on the run in a series of mysterious trails leading out of the village. Based on stories passed down through Mary’s family, she has always hoped for a life outside of the village, specifically to visit the ocean, which she isn’t even sure exists. This is the perfect chance to chase her dreams of the ocean, but what will she find outside the village walls? And can she and her posse outrun the Unconsecrated or will they become one of them?
This books was so disappointing, especially since it has taken me years to get around to reading it. It starts out so strong with the intrigue of the Sisterhood, the tension of Mary’s divided love between to two brothers, her own brother’s wavering loyalty to her. I could have read an entire book about the evil (or are they?) Sisterhood and been happy. However, the zombies invade before much of anything can be resolved or even brought to its greatest tension and the rest of the book – about 2/3 of the book – is this weird limbo of Mary and, conveniently, all her remaining friends and family on the run, trying to figure out what Roman numerals are. Seriously, that’s the big mystery – Roman numerals.
Mary is the most unlikable character I’ve read in a long time. She’s self-centered and whiny with bursts of bravery that only seem to get other people killed. She also conveniently is prevented from being infected more times than can be believed. And her reaction to what happens at the end of the book – which I won’t tell you in case you actually still want to read this book after this review – is so completely unbelievable, so utterly anticlimactic, that I wanted my 2 days of reading time back.
Part of me wants to read the sequels just because there has to be some explanation for why this book is the way it is. Maybe I should trust the author enough to have a grand plan that will have a huge payoff later on. But then again, there are way too many good books in the world. I’m moving on.
If you want to save some time, they are making a Forest of Hands and Teeth movie. I hope it doesn’t mostly consist of Maisie Williams, who has been cast as Mary, running, staring at Roman numerals, and pining over boys.
If you want to read a better zombie book:
Ashes by Ilsa Bick