Ever waited with baited breath for a certain book to come out, having read delicious blurbs and reviews by some of your favorite and most-respected authors and bloggers, only to find that you don’t like the book? Of course you have. Everyone’s read a book or watched a movie or seen a show that everyone raved about, only to find that it was really sort of ‘meh,’ (that’s my personal verbal expression for, ‘dude, I just wasn’t into it, you know?’ with attendant surfer voice) at least for them.
For me that book is The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan. It was released in March 2009 to rave reviews and already a film adaptation is in production. It’s been called “A postapocalyptic romance of the first order, elegantly written from title to last line,” by Scott Westerfeld, of Uglies series fame. Booklist writes “Ryan's vision is bleak but not overly gory; her entry in the zombie canon stands out for how well she integrates romance with flesh-eating.” So as soon as my public library’s online catalog showed that they had a copy, I placed a hold and checked it out.
In Mary's world there are simple truths. 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 about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, 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 in so much death?
Obviously the premise is cool. And the book cover is nifty. And then I tried reading it…maybe zombies are just not for me. There are plenty of descriptions from Forest that should be exciting, life-affirming, scary, weird and creepy by turns. However, I found myself 35 pages in and unenthusiastic about carrying on. I gave myself until page 100 to turn it around. Page 100 came up, and no change. So I did the unthinkable, skipped ahead, and read the last couple chapters. While I can appreciate the story arc and the characterization of the protagonist, I felt no connection to her. The whole thing was a deflating experience, let me tell you. I haven’t been this disappointed in a while. Or just since I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Ha!
But let’s not end on a depressing note. The web is full of reviews from people who thought the book rocked (and one who didn’t). A couple in particular that were enthusiastic and insightful: Jen Robinson’s blog review and Elizabeth de Jager’s analysis for Monsters and Critics.
Justine Larbalestier writes on the back of the book, “[It is] dark and sexy and scary. Only one of the Unconsecrated could put this book down.” Who knew? Turns out I’m Unconsecrated. You better watch your non-zombie self!