The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (March 10, 2009)
Source: My own personal book
Synopsis from back cover: In Mary’s world, there are simple truth. 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, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.
Now 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 by so much death?
My Review: I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I can’t say that I loved it. In fact, I’m a little disappointed. I have been reading so many raves about this series, that I just knew it would be great. And the first half of the book was great. Then, I spent 100 pages feeling as if I was reading the same story over again. It was too repetitive for me. I almost put the book back on my bookshelf to finish at a later time because I had lost interest. Luckily, the last 50 pages or so were interesting enough to make me want to finish reading.
Since I have mixed reviews, I should tell what I liked and disliked about the book. On a positive note, there was ample character development. More than ample, actually. I really felt like I knew Mary. She was a complicated character, constantly changing throughout the story. I loved that she was conflicted for almost the entire book. She did not have a simple life or easy choices to make, and the author made sure we understood that. The love triangle that she found herself was very complicated. (Complicated is an understatement, actually.) I also liked the fact that Mary knew what she wanted for her life (for the most part). She never gave up on wanting to see the ocean, even when everyone around no longer believed it existed. That really shows her commitment and courage. She holds the hope that the others do not have.
Another character that I liked was Travis. He was the broody male figure throughout most of the book. While he didn’t say much, he shows that actions speak louder than words. It’s easy to see how Mary fell deeply in love with him. What really makes me appreciate Travis’s role is that fact that he is a broken man. He’s not the typical strong, healthy hero. He has a lame leg that limits much of what he can do, even the simple things like climbing stairs. If he were strong and healthy like the others I don’t think his character would have worked as well. There needed to be something physically wrong with him to help illustrate Mary’s strong and dedicated character. They were the perfect support—in many ways—for one another.
Along with the characters, the idea behind the story was decent. I’m not much of a fan of postapocalyptic literature, but I bought in to this book. The “zombies” walking around trying to kill the humans held my interest. It was an original take on zombies, at least with my reading experience. Also, I enjoyed looking for the subtle hints of our civilization while I read (i.e. references to New York, Coney Island, roman numerals, Shakespeare). It helped me understand just how far into the future the events in the book were supposed to occur. But that’s pretty much where my fondness ends. The plot (for me) was only so-so. It started strong, but it fizzled in the middle. I began feeling like I was reading the same thing over and over again: “Oh, the Unconsecrated are coming!” “We have to turn back.” “Why?!” I can only read those lines so many times before they become stale. I understand the purpose—the characters’ questioning of themselves and their situation is crucial to the theme in the book—but I really feel like it was over done. In fact, what started as a quick paced plot began to lag in the middle of the book because of all the repetitiveness. As I said earlier, I almost gave up on the book. Luckily things do turn around and the plot picks back up. As soon as Mary makes her final decision, the plot picked back up. Unfortunately, that was the end of the book. There were only around 20 pages remaining in the book at that point.
Overall, it was a decent book. I’ve read many reviews that scream of how great this book is, but I’m not as quick to call it awesome. I feel a little guilty about pushing this book to my students based on the awesome book trailer we watched on YouTube. I know I am going to have to help the kids that bought the book from our book fair make it through the book. As a reader, if I struggled and wanted to give up, I’m certain my kids will feel the same way. It’s not as fast paced as I thought it would be, which I know will present a problem for kids that don’t typically like to read. On a positive note… I did start reading the sequel which seems pretty good so far. (I wasn’t ready to dismiss the other books in the series.)