Book Review: Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

I read a lot of books. Too many to ever successfully review on this blog. But every so often a book comes along which I simply cannot put down. When that happens, I have to tell everyone and hence the reason for this review.

There are many things I like about this book. Firstly, it’s a debut novel by Carrie Ryan – She has a lovely website. I love debut novels. There is such an energy about them.

Then there are the zombies. I love a good zombie apocalypse novel and this one doesn’t disappoint. The author calls them The Unconsecreated in the novel. Nowhere is the dreaded Z-word used. And it works.

I also love the author’s voice. Ryan writes with an intensity that sweeps you away from the first sentence. And remember, this is a YA novel, with zombies and yet, the tone and voice is so authoratative and literary that the fact that the story is a YA romance amongst the undead is almost incidental. That is the mark of a good voice.

Genre fiction CAN be written to a literary standard and this is a fantastic example of it.

So that’s the good stuff. I really couldn’t put this one down.

But –

The narrative is very myopic. We are very closely within the protagonist’s head. The story is told in very close first person narrative. We don’t get to see the bigger picture. We never fully understand the bigger picture. There are a number of subplots which are never resolved. The death  of most of the characters is almost random and inconsequential.

Then there is Mary. Unlike Bella Swan from the Twilight series, Mary is naive and unreliable. She is selfish and wilful. She spends most of her time in a fantasy world constructed from stories and ideas she has fashioned herself. We never get the full picture of the romantic dynamic between her and the two brothers because she is so completely wrapped up in herself.

And while the books starts off and draws the reader in at a cracking pace, it is not possible to maintain this level of intensity and  the book unravels rapidly somewhere in the middle.

The emotional hopscotch Mary plays goes round and round. It’s almost as if the author has run out of thoughts for her character to have and they are repeated over and over. Mary becomes more and more unsympathetic as she destroys everyone around her in her quest for the ocean. We are never really told how the village came to fall and in the end, I personally wanted to take this silly girl and shake her so hard that her teeth rattled. I could not wait to get out of this character’s head and the only reason I kept reading was to find out where the fences would take them.

This is a real pity, because the flaws in Mary diluted the emotional punch that the romantic tragedy should have delivered.

On the whole, a thoroughly enjoyable read though. Ryan is definitely a voice to watch in time to come.


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