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The Forest of Hands and Teeth

by

The Forest of Hands and Teeth Cover

ISBN13: 9780385736824
ISBN10: 0385736827
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Excerpt

My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away. She once showed me a picture that she said was my great-great-great-grandmother standing in the ocean as a child. It has been years since, and the picture was lost to fire long ago, but I remember it, faded and worn. A little girl surrounded by nothingness.

In my mother's stories, passed down from her many-greats-grandmother, the ocean sounded like the wind through the trees and men used to ride the water. Once, when I was older and our village was suffering through a drought, I asked my mother why, if so much water existed, were there years when our own streams ran almost dry? She told me that the ocean was not for drinking--that the water was filled with salt.

That is when I stopped believing her about the ocean. How could there be so much salt in the universe and how could God allow so much water to become useless?

But there are times when I stand at the edge of the Forest of Hands and Teeth and look out at the wilderness that stretches on forever and wonder what it would be like if it were all water. I close my eyes and listen to the wind in the trees and imagine a world of nothing but water closing over my head.

It would be a world without the Unconsecrated, a world without the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Often, my mother stands next to me holding her hand up over her eyes to block the sun and looking out past the fences and into the trees and brush, waiting to see if her husband will come home to her.

She is the only one who believes that he has not turned--that he might come home the same man he was when he left. I gave up on my father months ago and buried the pain of losing him as deeply as possible so that I could continue with my daily life. Now I sometimes fear coming to the edge of the Forest and looking past the fence. I am afraid I will see him there with the others: tattered clothes, sagging skin, the horrible pleading moan and the fingers scraped raw from pulling at the metal fences.

That no one has seen him gives my mother hope. At night she prays to God that he has found some sort of enclave similar to our village. That somewhere in the dense Forest he has found safety. But no one else has any hope. The Sisters tell us that ours is the only village left in the world.

My brother Jed has taken to volunteering extra shifts for the Guardian patrols that monitor the fence line. I know that, like me, he thinks our father is lost to the Unconsecrated and that he hopes to find him during the patrol of the perimeter and kill him before our mother sees what her husband has become.

People in our village have gone mad from seeing their loved ones as Unconsecrated. It was a woman--a mother--horrified at the sight of her son infected during a patrol, who set herself on fire and burned half of our town. That was the fire that destroyed my family's heirlooms when I was a child, that obliterated our only ties to who we were as a people before the Return, though most were so corroded by then that they left only wisps of memories.

Jed and I watch our mother closely now and we never allow her to approach the fence line unaccompanied. At times  Jed's wife Beth used to join us on these vigils until she was sent to bed rest with her first child. Now it is just us.

And then one day Beth's brother catches up with me while I am dunking our laundry in the stream that branches off the big river. For as long as I can remember Harold has been a friend of mine, one of the few in the village my age. He trades me a handful of wildflowers for my sopping sheets and we sit and watch the water flow over the rocks as he twists the sheets in complicated patterns to dry them out.

"How is your mother?" he asks me, because he is nothing if not polite.

I duck my head and wash my hands in the water. I know I should be getting back to her, that I have already taken too much time for myself today and that she is probably pacing, waiting for me. Jed is off on a long-term patrol of the perimeter, checking the strength of the fences, and my mother likes to spend her afternoons near the Forest looking for my father. I need to be there to comfort her just in case. To hold her back from the fences if she finds him. "She's still holding out hope," I say.

Harry clucks his tongue in sympathy. We both know there is little hope.

His hands seek out and cover mine under the water. I have known this was coming for months. I have seen the way he looks at me now, how his eyes have changed. How tension has crept into our friendship. We are no longer children and haven't been for years.

"Mary, I_._._." He pauses for a second. "I was hoping that you would go with me to the Harvest Celebration next weekend."

I look down at our hands in the water. I can feel my fingertips wrinkling in the cold and his skin feels soft and fleshy. I consider his offer. The Harvest Celebration is the time in the fall when those of marrying age declare themselves to one another. It is the beginning of the courtship, the time during the short winter days when the couple determines whether they will make a suitable match. Almost always the courtship will end in spring with Brethlaw--the weeklong celebration of wedding vows and christenings. It's very rare that a courtship fails. Marriage in our village is not about love--it is about commitment.

Every year I wonder at the couples pairing up around me. At how my former childhood friends suddenly find partners, bond, prepare for the next step. Pledge themselves to one another and begin their courtships. I always assumed the same would happen to me when my time approached. That because of the sickness that wiped out so many of my peers when I was a child, it would be even more important that those of us of marrying age find a mate. So important that there wouldn't be enough girls to spare for a life with the Sisterhood.

I even hoped that perhaps I would be lucky enough to find more than just a mate, to eventually find love like my mother and father.

And yet, even though I have been one of the few eligible during the past two years, I've been left aside.

I have spent the last weeks dealing with my father's absence beyond the fences. Dealing with my mother's despair and desolation. With my own grief and mourning. Until this moment it hasn't occurred to me that I might be the last one asked to the Harvest Celebration. Or that I might be left unclaimed.

From the Hardcover edition.

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m2k2, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by m2k2)
Carrie Ryan takes the reader through a nail-biting post-apocalypse tale that truly leaves you ready for the next two books! The book deals with very real emotions in a zombie filled world. This is a book I could not put down. Ryan has written it in a way that is very appealing to all readers from teens to adults. When asked for the best book I've read of the year, I always recommend The Forest of Hands and Teeth. As a middle school teacher, I have seen both boys and girls LOVE this book. Who doesn't like a well written story of zombies, love, and a character overcoming challenges?!? A must read for anyone who has liked books like The Hunger Games or other dystopian novels.
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Shoshana, May 2, 2010 (view all comments by Shoshana)
This has been tagged as a young adult dystopian novel, and while I agree with "young adult," it's dystopian only in the sense that all zombie novels are dystopian--a spreading horror, present or past, destroys much of civilization. Perhaps it shades slightly more into dystopian territory, in that a character alludes to the Unconsecrated--this village's name for the zombies--having originated in scientific attempts to make people immortal. However, this aside is so tangential to the action of the story, so peripheral to the central narrative, that, while intriguing, it is not a sufficiently central point to support calling this a dystopia. It is young adult horror with science fiction elements.

There are things I can live without knowing. I don't need the whole back story; in many ways it's more interesting not to have a huge revelation about the long, long ago time and how things came to be. Perhaps some of that is filled in in the next book; perhaps not. However, there are many data that, in their absence, suggest poor planning and plotting. The world of this novel is not internally consistent, especially in regard to the Unconsecrated's capacities and how they are dealt with by the villagers.

Psychologically, this is a novel about claustrophobia. The (seemingly) lone village, the tiny beacon holding back the unending, zombie-filled forest. The stern and secret-keeping Sisterhood, a religious order that controls the village, its inhabitants' lives, and access to historical and current knowledge. The young girl, who wants to marry for love, break out of the village's tight periphery, and re-discover this "ocean" her mother described to her in her childhood. It is also about selfishness; more specifically, selfishness rewarded. Mary, the protagonist, is cut from the same histrionic and narcissistic cloth as Twilight's Bella. She is moody, impulsive, self-focused and self-preoccupied, willing to put her ambivalent desires ahead of (as far as she knows) the well-being of everyone in the world. Why is Travis attractive? For the same reason Edward is: Because the female protagonist says so.

This novel bears little resemblance to The Hunger Games, with which I've seen it compared. Instead, think The Road, but with zombies instead of the charred ashes of a ruined civilization, and a whiny self-serving kid. Same ending, though.

While I can't give you my more interesting analysis of the novel, it is rich ground for a psychoanalytic deconstruction. If you're interested and don't mind spoilers, you can read it at www.goodreads.com.

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margaretskipper, December 14, 2009 (view all comments by margaretskipper)
Quote. When I'm at the highest point in our village I look out at the Forest. I strain to see if I can find the edge of it, find where the rest of the world begins. But all I can see is darkness. My entire life has been about the world outside the fence line, has been about the Forest. -Mary
Summary

Through twists and turns of fate, orphaned Mary seeks knowledge of life, love, and especially what lies beyond her walled village and the surrounding forest, where dwell the Unconsecrated, aggressive flesh-eating people who were once dead.

My Opinion

Characters. I have read a few reviews saying that the characters in this book were undeveloped and didn't feel "important". While i read books, i mostly picture what I'm reading from what I'm given from the author. I'm happy to say that i had no problem visualizing any part of this book. The characters all had a certain personality and was easy for me to like. I think the character development is very good without be too much. In some books, you just get way too much stuff. This book seems level and even.

Theme. The theme of this book is centered around free will. Mary's village is controlled by the "Sisterhood." Mary doesn't want to be forced to conform. It's not that she wants to go crazy and do illegal or immoral things, she just wants to be able to choose her own path. Instead, the sisterhood determines what is best, then everyone does what they want to achieve that.

Plot. This story has various elements of suspense. There were times where I couldn't stop reading because i needed to know what was going to happen! There is a huge journey throughout the book; not just literally but emotionally as well. There is also some mystery because there is a speculation that the sisterhood may know more then they let on too.

Style. This story evoked many emotions from me including fear, sadness and brief happiness (very, very brief). It was simple to read and understand. Some simile/comparisons but not too much to cause it to be too confusing. The dialog was somewhat brief but i found it effective.

Setting. The setting of this book occurs in an isolated village. This village is surrounded on all sides by a fences and a forest beyond the fence. The unconsecrated zombies are in the forest preventing escape. There are also abandoned trails lead away from the village, but the villagers are prohibited from exploring these trails. The trails seem to be a huge maze! The atmosphere is developed great.

Comparison. Similar to Resident Evil & The Village (that movie) but written for a younger audience.

Overall. Defiantly 5 stars because it was written well, had great characters and cover a topic i have seen much in young adult books. I really really enjoyed this book. I may even go out on a limb and say it was the best one i have read in a while. This reason for this i think is because it really made me think. It some YA books, there is a girl and a boy and the whole story is about there love or relationship. While that kinds of book are good, i think i really like this too. In this book, the whole villages' wellbeing was considered. There was more issues then just that "mysterious new guy at school" one that so often comes up. Family, friendship, duty, and loose are all covered in this book. And I'm not ashamed to admitted that i almost cried (ok, maybe more then almost.)

The Bottom-Line

Mary lives in a secluded village surrounded my people eating zombies, protected only by a fence. She wants to find a way out of the village..out of that life.

margaretsbookstbr dot blogspot dot com
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385736824
Author:
Ryan, Carrie
Publisher:
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Author:
Carrie Ryan
Subject:
Love & Romance
Subject:
Girls & Women
Subject:
Social Issues - Death & Dying
Subject:
Situations / Emotions & Feelings
Subject:
Children s-General
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20100231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 9
Language:
English
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
7.88x5.48x.73 in. .52 lbs.
Age Level:
14-17

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Related Subjects


Children's » General
Children's » Sale Books
Young Adult » Fiction » Horror
Young Adult » Fiction » Paranormal
Young Adult » Fiction » Social Issues » Death and Dying
Young Adult » General

The Forest of Hands and Teeth Used Trade Paper
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Product details 336 pages Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers - English 9780385736824 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , 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, Marys truths are failing her. Shes 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?

Carrie Ryan lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. You can visit Carrie at www.carrieryan.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

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