Monday, February 6, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse! Forest of Hands and Teeth Review

I finally read The Forest of Hands and Teeth, a post-apocalyptic YA by Carrie Ryan. It was the title that drew my attention first. It conjured all sorts of great creepy images and impressions that piqued my curiosity and convinced me to read it. But I have to say, it fell short of what I expected it to be. There are a few spoilers in the middle of this review, but you'll probably see them coming.

The title alone should tell you this book is about zombies. It's also a romance. I didn't know this when I first started reading the book, but it soon became apparent. I don't usually read romances, or books about zombies, but I'd started it and I wasn't going to stop until I'd finished it.

One more thing. This book is written in first person, present-tense. Not a fan. It also skips around into past tense when the MC is remembering anything. Also not a fan.

As I was reading, I found out that this book is basically a narrative of the MC's experiences. It's as if you're being read a running diary of her experiences. You are in her head constantly, and if that's not a pleasant experience for you (which it isn't for me) then you might not like this book.

As I was being narrated to, I began to wonder how many pages the MC's dialogue would take up. I came to the conclusion that in the first 100 pages, her dialogue would take up about 2. I began to think perhaps the author wasn't able to switch back to dialogue-mode after narrating for so long, or perhaps she'd decided to make the MC mute. When the MC took a vow of silence, my suspicions were nearly founded. With everyone talking to her, explaining things for her and answering for her, the MC became a very passive character. It's only in the second half of the book that I see more dialogue from her.

Dialogue aside, I didn't like the language in this book very much. I suppose it fit the tone of the book - what with the danger of zombies lurking to eat you and all. But I felt it was a bit over-dramatic and needlessly aggressive. Words like 'roar', 'claw', 'thrust' and 'tangle' kept turning up - but not in correlation with any zombie attacks. These words were used to describe the interactions of the main group of characters with one another. The MC tangled her legs in her skirt at least twice, and once she tangled them in bedsheets, clawed across the ground to reach her man, and roared at her brother. A few times people were thrusting their hands into their hair. Almost every touch was forceful, regardless of whether it really needed to be.

The trouble with the aggressive and over-dramatic language was that sometimes it left me confused. I had to reread a paragraph where the MC took hold of a "burning metal" lever, wondering why she was about to sear her hand off. Then I realized the author had mentioned "harsh sunlight" a few sentences before, and that's why the metal was hot. Because of the choice of words, I was expecting fire or electricity, not sunshine.

As the book continued, I kept getting unfortunate images of soap opera couples whenever the MC and love interest spoke (mostly because her name was Mary). Nearly every description of love included craving or need, whether the couple was in an intimate situation or not. And when she ran to meet him, tripped and clawed her way toward him (when nothing was chasing her), I nearly put the book away. This, mingled with the language of the book, made me think "Is this why I've been avoiding romance novels? Is this what they sound like?"

There was at least once instance in the book where I felt the romance completely took over the action, becoming impractical and ridiculous (and making me say "What??" in a very loud voice at the page). The MC and her love interest were sheltering inside a big house, surrounded by zombies. They had been traveling for days and were thirsty and hungry. They had not explored the house. When they were alone in the bedroom, he turned to her and said "Tell me a story, Mary." This was followed by them cuddling on the bed. (Romance apparently trumps food and water)

I read halfway through the book and got bored with the zombie apocalypse. I was tempted to stop reading, but I thought that perhaps the end would make it all worthwhile. But it didn't. The end wasn't very satisfying. (I recently discovered that this book has a sequel entitled The Dead-Tossed Waves, which I don't intend to read, but which explains why this book ended the way it did.)

That said, I have some positive things to say about this book. It's a book you can read fast. (I read it in two days.) It's not overburdened with heavy description, but it does narrate. For those of you who like zombies and romance, it has both of those things. I'm also sure that not everyone is as picky as I am about dramatic language.

So, if you feel like reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth, pick a weekend. Then if you stay up late reading you don't have any obligations in the morning. And if you do read it, I'd love to hear your opinion on it.


  1. Oh see I have read all the books and I enjoyed them. The 3rd one most of all. The Forest of Hands and Teeth was different for me. I had your same thoughts about being in the safe house with her love, I was happy they were together but had the same thoughts about shouldn't other things take priority but let it slip that maybe they just were still running on adrenaline and such it was clouding their brains.

    Still enjoyed your review. It picked up some of my same issues but I did enjoy the zombie and romance, I love me some love ;) and I love zombie movies but this was the first book I believe i've read on the subject.

  2. Eve, I'm glad you liked the book. It was one of those can't-put-it-down books, so that's a plus for it.

    I like love stories if I like the couple involved. After all, love is about the people, right? I didn't like Mary very much, so I guess that's why I wasn't much for her romance.

  3. This book was okay, but it didn't live up to it's potential. The writing was far too emotion-heavy and repetitive, and for all of Mary's obsession with Travis, I never once understood what made her so in love with him.

  4. You know, I thought that was just me! I'm glad someone else didn't get her 'love' of Travis.


I'd love to hear what you have to say!

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