The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Author: Carrie Ryan

Published: March, 2009 by Random House

Number of Pages: 320

Rating: 4/5


It’s not about surviving. It should be about love. When you know love…that’s what makes this life worth it. When you live with it everyday. Wake up with it, hold on to it during the thunder and after a nightmare. When love is your refuge from the death that surrounds us all and when it fills you so tight that you can’t express it.


I have never read a book quite like this one before. Obviously, all books are different.

Like snowflakes. Sort of.

Like snowflakes made by a little kid. All are different, but, somewhere, something behind the snipping little fingers is a driving force that has a tendency toward particular things. The snowflakes are different but similar. Certain characteristics reappear.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth has many new-to-me qualities. There was a mystifying “something” that gave me the feeling that I was watching an incredibly gripping horror/thriller movie. The action scenes between the Unconsecrated and the living humans were phenomenal. My throat clenched and my hands were shaking to the point that the book shivered apprehensively along with them.

(And now to plunge into the synopsis with little or no transitions because that’s how we do it, here at Wordbird.)

The Forest of Hands in Teeth has surrounded Mary’s village on all sides for generations, ever since the Return, to be precise. The fence that guards the living villagers from the living-dead Unconsecrated is the only thing that keeps the world from flooding with the flesh-eating, tattered monsters. No one’s entirely certain how the world became so dark and frightening, but the shock has worn off with the years. The fences, forest, Sisterhood, Guardians, and Unconsecrated are a seemingly irremovable part of everyone’s lives.

Mary, however, grew up memorizing stories of the world before the Return. Of the ocean. Ever since she was a little kid, she’s longed to see the monstrous expanse of water and waves. She never moved an inch toward her dream.

Until the Unconsecrated flood the village, ravaging the villagers and animals. Their blood lust never satiated. Mary, accompanied by a depressingly small amount of others, is forced to escape.

Into the forest. The mysterious, gratefully enclosed, paths that lead into the trees are finally put to good use. But the day will come when the group needs more than the meager supplies they can scavenge on the path. More of a life than one spent hunched over in the rain, trying to keep out of the reach of the dead people banging on the fences.

And, of course, there’s the issue of Mary’s duo of love interests. On one side, there’s the cute Travis, who Mary’s had a bit of a crush on for years. On the other, Travis’ brother, Harry, who’s never been anything more than a great friend. Right?

Here’s the deal: I found no fault with a majority of the plot. The Unconsecrated where phenomenal. Truly. I’ve never been so astounded by a “creature” in a novel. This book is incredibly gripping. As I said, it felt as though I were watching a horror movie, glued to my dad’s arm for comfort, wanting to look away but unable to. Carrie is a master at writing thrilling scenes, confusing us slightly at times along with Mary. The confusion only made the scenes more interesting.

As far as the remainder of the plot goes (i.e. the love triangle), I was highly disappointed. I dislike it when a main character teases the two boys, and Mary most definitely did a lot of teasing. When it came to love drama, she seemed so weak and, well, lame at times. I was really irritated on occasions. All in all, the love story was definitely lacking. There’s just something about a girl who can’t make up her mind and plays slave to her emotions constantly that irritates me. Hm.

Anyway, I loved the other relationships – particularly the one between Mary and her brother, Jed. It was complex and torn. There were moments of contempt, moments of longing. I absolutely loved the way the relationship was eventually tied together, and appreciated that it was understanding that brought them closer. Once they’d both gone through some incredibly tragic experiences and were on equal ground, they could more ably comfort each other.

I’m glad to say that The Forest of Hands and Teeth, though lacking in some ways, makes up for it with a fantastically gripping and thrilling plot. I couldn’t put this book down, and I seriously doubt many people will be able to, either.

There’s nothing like a book where the dead walk.

Not to mention eat people.

I’m eager to read the next book in the series, The Dead-Tossed Waves. I’d recommend this book to anyone with a strong stomach. You’ll be surprised by how creeped out you can be by a novel.

Overall, The Forest of Hands and Teeth is an intriguing, quick-paced, and frightening read with an intricate and beautifully laid-out plot. The bittersweet ending satisfied me – and left me wanting more.

2 Commentsto “The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan; Review”

  1. Great review! I agree with most of what you said, the love triangle didn't work for me, and honestly, mary was only so-so. I thought the whole premise of the zombie-thingamabobber was super cool and was what made the novel work 🙂 nice to have you back 😛

  2. Lovely review! You captured the essence of the novel and your thoughts about it perfectly! I agree; Mary's teasing irritated me, but at the same time, I could see a little of why she was the way she was. I wouldn't have done the same…but I understood. The Unconsecrated were scary! Books are so much more real to me than movies, and I had trouble sleeping after I finished this. I can't wait to read The Dead-Tossed Waves.

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