The Forest of Hands and Teeth – Carrie Ryan (Review)

Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth #1)
Author: Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Delacorte Books for a Young Readers, 2009
Genre: YA Dystopian, YA Horror, YA Paranormal

This review can be found on my BlogTeacherofYA’s Tumblr, or my Goodreads page

My Review:

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I picked up this book. It was worth every late fee I’ve collected by being unable to renew it (it comes from another library). Engrossing from beginning to end. And it was TOTALLY different than what I thought it was about. 

And it’s going to be a movie. (Squeal!)

 I love this cover…it’s the one on my borrowed copy, though the books has had several covers…

Anyway, let’s get onto it!

The book starts with Mary, who tells us that she had longed to see the ocean…her mother had told her stories about it for, before the Return. This is integral as it becomes almost an obsession of Mary’s…a desire to see more and not settle. Anyway, she is washing clothes in the river, knowing that her mother is waiting for her to come home. Every day they walk to the fence together while Mary’s mother searches the faces of the Unconsecrated to find her husband, Mary’s father. He became infected and now Mary’s mother searches for his face among what can only in our experience recognize as zombies. Harry is at the pond, and asks Mary to go to the Harvest celebration, a time of courtship amd marriage vows. As Mary thinks about Harry’s brother Travis, a siren goes off: this usually means a breach in the perimeter and an infected person is loose in the town. Mary knows immediately what has happened: her mother didn’t wait for her, and she was bitten while getting too close to the fence. 

This is true: Mary’s mother has a choice now; she can go live in the Forest of Hands and Teeth among the other Unconsecrateds, or see can be put out of her misery. Mary’s mother chooses exile, and Mary knows this is only because of her missing father. The decision is taboo: many would rather die than live among the flesh-eaters. Once her brother Jeb comes home with the other Guardians, he tells Mary that she shouldn’t have let her mother live. Mary explains it was her mother’s choice. Jeb decides to send her to live with the Sisterhood (religious nuns that run the village), and he kicks Mary out of their home since he is the male heir, and no one has asked for Mary’s hand. 

While living with the Sisterhood, Mary must be silent until she reads the Scripture five times. While she awaits her vows, Travis comes in with a badly broken leg. At one point, he is barely conscious and asks for water, so Mary brings it to him. He asks her to pray for him, but Mary isn’t supposed to speak. However, she instead whispers into Travis’s ear about the ocean, and feeds him snow to bring his fever down. As time goes on, Mary realizes that she is really falling in love with Travis, but he is betrothed her her best friend, Cass. Travis seems to feel the same way. One night, when she sneaks into his room to see him, the Sisterhood secrets away a girl in a red coat. Mary realizes that this girl is an Outsider, which means that their village may not be the only one that survived the infection and the Return…there could be others. While with Travis, hidden under his covers, she hears the sisters in the next room hide the girl. When Mary realizes how close she is to Travis, she sneaks back out, only to see the girl at the window. They wave to each other, and the girl writes on the fogged-up glass: XIV. What does this mean? When Mary tries to find the girl again, she is gone.

Why would the Sisterhood hide the existence of Outsiders? And what did they do with her? As Mary tries to find out, she’ll realize the answers she’s searching for made lead her to the ocean she so dreams of seeing…but may cost her the secret love she’s ignited with Travis.

Is It Classroom-Appropriate? 

Finally I can say…YES! This book would be excellent to view from a utopia/dystopia POV. Mary’s town is idyllic in some ways, but is a nightmare in others. There are so many topics to explore, like the fact that the women hold the power in this future society, but yet the society is still quite patriarchal. There’s also the religious aspects: G-d in the book is the same as ours, but he is used differently when it comes to worship (the book isn’t preachy, but the Sisterhood uses religion to determine courses of action and the rules of the village). It’s a book about the future that reflects much of the past as well (i.e. Post-apocalyptic, fall of civilization). I’m adding this to my list of possible future Unit Plan books!

Age Range: gives this book a score of 900L, so it’s definitely appropriate for 13 and up…12 if they are an advanced reader. There is no HL because the book does not deal with mature content (though the sequel is designated HL…and I haven’t read it….so I can only vouch for book one). There’s no swearing, and no sex. Pretty clean compared to YA nowadays! I would feel totally comfortable letting Jayden, my twelve year old niece, read this book. There are some scary scenes with the Unconsecrateds, but nothing too gory or too intense. This book is like Goldilock’s porridge: not too hot, not too cold…just right.

End Result:

I’m giving The Forest of Hands and Teeth ★★★★★! While I won’t ruin the ending (hell, I barely spoiled the book: so MUCH more happens but you just got to read it to see), I will say that the book ends openly…we are left to wonder of Mary’s choices were right. It’s very character-focused, mainly on Mary as we are told the story from a first-person POV (my favorite). We go on the journey with Mary together. 

I will admit I even cried at one point (it might be hormones due to an unrelated incident…I’d probably  cry during a car commercial right now)! This was a moving story with a hint of secrets and betrayal, love and  heartbreak.

So goo out and grab it it! Happy Reading!

43 thoughts on “The Forest of Hands and Teeth – Carrie Ryan (Review)

  1. I tried reading this at one point, then had to put it down for reasons that I don’t quite remember now… I had been really interested, but then something irritated me and then I never went back. But you’ve left such a glowing review that I totally want to try again! And I do love the cover! Though I think I had a different one…[this one, I think: ] Anyway, awesome review as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s had a LOT of covers…I thought about posting them all, but them my WordPress app was being stupid with not centering my pics, so I gave up. But yes, the only reason I even used this one is because that is what is on the cover of my book.
      There’s a lot of negative reviews about the sequel, but you know that’s never stopped me before, so hopefully I’ll have more on the other two books. Ryan had written a TON of short stories in this world, too. It’s crazy.


    1. I haven’t seen the second one, but she is kinda weak looking. She’s not pretty, she’s not ugly…she’s just real bland and plain. In my opinion at least. But she reminds me of the character: unsure of herself and her decisions, quiet, and unhappy deep down.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There is…the characters are all going through something but refuse to burden others with their problems…which if they had talked to someone about their problems, everything would have ended up ok.
      I think you’d like the story…you might not love it, but I think you’ll like it at least.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I had only heard of the title before…I just decided to look it up at my library and request it out of curiosity. I’m glad I did, though! You have to know, I didn’t start really reading again until two years ago, so I’m still catching up to all the good books from awhile ago, like this one. I mean it’s from 2009!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great review! I’m so glad you enjoyed this book as well.
    I think I read The Forest of Hands and Teeth a long time ago and I don’t remember loving it, but maybe it’s something I should try re-reading because you’re not the first person whose opinion I trust who’s said this book was amazing.
    I don’t remember much about the ending, or even what happened in the rest of the book but the premise reminded me a little of the film The Village, not sure if that is at all accurate but it was an interesting film so maybe rereading this book will be an interesting experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kee The Reader

    First time hearing about this. Great review! I never read books with zombies, they honestly don’t interest me but your review is very persuasive that I might add it to my TBR. If I do read it, it will be my forth zombie book since I’m planning on reading the Something Strange and Deadly Trilogy by Susan Dennard.


    1. Yay, you’re like one of the first ppl to have heard of it!
      I do hope you let me know when you get a chance to read it…I am dying to know what you think!
      😵 <— That's my "dying" to know…😂😂😂


  4. What a creepy title 😀 This really doesn’t sound like something I’d usually go for, but your review has me intrigued… I want to find out who the girl is and why they’re hiding the existence of another village and what it all has to do with the ocean! Argh. I might have to increase my to-read list again 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the title is creepy…the forest is called this because of the Unconsecrateds (zombies basically). I plan to read the next book in the series…it doesn’t rate as high, but once I start a series, I’m hooked.
      I do hope you get a chance to give it a chance!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ummm,,,it’s kinda strange on this one…there’s three core books, but there’s a lot of novellas…there’s a list on Goodreads and it has them called 0.1, 0.2, etc. I don’t plan on reading those: I’m going to stick with the core series. So I’m going with three.
      It’s really interesting conceptually. I think you’d like it. Or at least I hope you do!

      Liked by 1 person

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