Mary lives in an isolated village which is surrounded by a huge fence, and beyond the fence, a forest. The fence keeps out the Unconsecrated, who without the fence, would devour everyone in the village, turning them into zombies too. Mary’s father disappeared into the Forest years ago and ever since, her mother spends days just standing by the fence, waiting for him to return. Until one day he does, biting Mary’s mother and turning her into an Unconsecrated as well. With the loss of her mother, it’s incredibly difficult for Mary to deal with the fact that she is about to be married off to a boy named Harry, especially since she’s in love with his brother, Travis. While Mary has always listened to the Sisters who govern the village, she’s always had this belief that the things they teach may not be completely true. So when an outsider enters their village, she is determined to find out who she is and where she came from. And when the fence is broken, and the unthinkable occurs, Mary and her friends must run – but even as they are escaping from the Unconsecrated, Mary is still determined to find out the truth about her village, and about the world beyond – if there is one.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth was one of those books that I saw around the blogosphere, but didn’t really think was for me. Until recently when I felt like EVERYONE was reading it, and I felt left out – I felt like I was missing something significant by not picking it up, so I did. I’m glad I read it, but I would still agree with my initial assumption that the book really isn’t the perfect book for my tastes.
Before reading this book, I had not read anything zombie-related. What I liked about The Forest of Hands and Teeth is that the zombies were believable. They weren’t caricatures or weird things to be laughed at, they were actual people who were turned – Unconsecrated. Not only were they believable, but they were terrifying. The way they so quickly were able to take over an entire village made it easy to understand why the people there had to have such serious protection to keep them at bay. I also liked the characters in the novel. Mary was not such a great person (she was in love with her betrothed’s brother, who happened to be her best friend’s betrothed – it was just awkward), but she was a realistic character who acted in a way that made sense given her situation. She had lost both of her parents to the Unconsecrated, her brother avoided her, and her best friend was marrying the boy she loved. Her life wasn’t exactly as she had planned. I also liked her spark of curiosity – the fact that although she had been taught something her entire life, indoctrinated by the Sisters, she still questioned everything. She had a mind of her own and even though it got her into trouble more often than not, I liked that about her. Her stubbornness actually is what ended up keeping her alive several times in the book.
The action in the novel really kept me on my toes. In the beginning, I was spending a ton of mental energy trying to figure out what the heck was going on in this village. Obviously there were zombies, but why were the Sisters keeping so many secrets from the people? And why were they so isolated, why did the people of the village believe that they were the only ones left on the planet? I wanted so badly to understand where the zombies came from, why the people were kept so isolated, and why they acted in such backward ways. But soon enough I was just sucked right into the action of the novel and didn’t care so much about the little details. The last half of the book was a roller coaster ride of intense Stuff Happening and I really enjoyed the action.
Ultimately, while I enjoyed The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I can’t say that I loved it. There were several plots points that I either did not like or was confused by. I’m still left wondering about a few (crucial) things. And although I really liked the characters, I did not connect with them at all. The whole love square thing should have emotionally got to me more than it did, and by the end of the book I just didn’t care much about it. I think I’ll probably read the sequel to this one, because I do want to know what happens, but I’m not planning to rush out to get it or anything. I fear that by the time it’s available to me, I won’t care anymore. But we’ll see.
So, in summary – The Forest of Hands and Teeth entertained me but I did not love it. It was better than I was expecting, I think, and I definitely think zombie-lovers should read it. 🙂 But it was not my favorite.