The first time I’d heard of The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, I added it to my never-ending To Read list on GoodReads. Shortly after, I read a short story in Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love, which just happened to be a prequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth.
The prequel seemed interesting enough. As with most short stories like this, the author gave enough information for the small subplot to make sense—there is a village, outside of the village is the Forest of Hands and Teeth, and in the forest live the Unconsecrated. And as it turned out, the Unconsecrated are—shock, gasp, what!—zombies! But they don’t call them zombies, they call them Unconsecrated. I had never read a zombie book before, but from what I’ve been told zombies are the new vampires. I found myself wanting to know more, so when I needed a new audiobook, this was the one I chose.
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?
The story had really great potential, but for me it fell flat in a multitude of places. For starters, the audiobook narration was difficult to listen to. The narrator’s voice was beautiful, but she spoke with an unusual cadence and placed odd pauses in the middle of sentences. Sometimes words were over annunciated, while other times I struggled to decifer what she had said.
Another thing that bothered me about the book was the prose in general. Nothing about it sucked me in and made me forget I was reading a book.
For me, the biggest disappointment with this book was the characters. I did not connect with, feel for, empathize with, or particularly like any of them. It made it very hard to get into the story because I couldn’t bring myself to care what happened to them. I think this was due in part to the main characters having established relationships prior to the beginning of the book. Although the author explained their history, I didn’t feel the connection between them while reading.
I think the biggest area where this shows is in Mary and Travis’s relationship. I felt absolutely nothing for Travis, which says a lot because the story is written from Mary’s point of view and she was head over heels in love with him. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why. Everything about their relationship felt so one-sided, like Mary was harboring a school girl crush on a boy who was completely indifferent to her. Even when their circumstances isolated the two of them together and we found out that Travis had wanted her all along, I never felt any spark between them.
I liked the book enough to want to know how it ended, so I saw it through. It probably would have taken me longer had I actually been reading it, but the ease of listening to the audiobook, despite the narration, kept me going. I liked the ending. I thought it fit the circumstances well, although there were some questions I had that went unanswered. There are currently two more books in this series, which focus on different characters in different cities, and while I think that is a really fantastic concept, at this point I have no plans to continue the series.