HOW DO YOU KILL WHAT’S ALREADY DEAD?
This book, ladies and gentleman … I don’t even know what to say. I’m not sure whether to be thoroughly disappointed in the ending and various points in the plot and cry in my corner or give a loud and obnoxious round of applause to Ms. Ryan, who brilliantly constructed the novel that so expertly entangled me in its web. I am honestly very, very confused, and my hope is that by the end of this post, you will be just as confused as I am. Prepare yourselves.
To Mary (common name, which I wasn’t sure I liked at the beginning but it grew on me), the world is pretty simple. To avoid being bitten by the ravenous monsters (zombies, or the “undead,” if you must know) that lurk beyond the fence, you must know these rules:
- The Sisterhood always knows best.
- The Guardians will protect and serve.
- The Unconsecrated will never relent.
Mary’s life is by no means ordinary and is certainly not without pain. Mary’s father has already been turned by the “unconsecrated” and her brother patrols the fences, secretly hoping he can catch a glimpse of their father. Why? Because he wants to kill him before their mother can see him in that condition. I suppose there’s a good intention behind it…
Despite Mary’s unusual circumstances, she would say her life is normal. She has a crush on someone and somebody else has a crush on her. The person she’s crushing on is Travis and the person who’s crushing on Mary is Harry. Travis is your everyday kind of guy. He’s charismatic, funny, goofy, and really just your average high-school charmer. He seems flirtatious with every girl ― except for Mary. How typical!
Harry is the sweet guy that has always been Mary’s friend. She’s suspected his growing feelings for her but she’s always hoped they’d go away. Harry is kind of hopeless in this situation. Mary is so enamored with Travis that how could she love Harry? I leaned more towards the side of Travis in this book, strangely enough, and didn’t even feel that sorry for Harry. I don’t know. I guess there’s something … entitled about his character. It bothers me.
So you see, Mary has quite the simple life.
Until her mother is bitten by her father.
Great. Zombie books. Why do I read them? I hate zombies, as you well know!
Mary is orphaned and taken in by the sisterhood where her curse-word of a brother and his wife refuse to take her in. So Mary’s life is completely turned around. As a Sister, she will never marry, she will never have children, she will be a boring old maid for the rest of her life. And not only that, but the “Sisterhood” is practically a band of witches. Or cultists. I really don’t know but I don’t like them.
BUT things get shaken up a little when Travis gets injured and is brought into the Sisters’ home to be treated and healed, which means ….. MARY GETS TO SPEND TIME WITH HIM! Unfortunately, their relationship was so rushed and Travis seemed so strange to me. I have several complaints about this book and their romance is one of them but I’ll get to the complaints later.
Shortly before Travis leaves, another strange thing happens. Mary’s superior within the Sisterhood comes to Mary and tells her that she is no longer a Sister … she’s been claimed! By who, you ask? Perhaps her brother has recognized how wrongly he’s treated her and has decided to take her in? Or perhaps his wife has insisted it?
Not even close.
Mary’s brother still cares nothing about her and the wife has not requested that Mary be accepted back into the family.
So then who?
Obviously, it’s Harry. Yay. Thrilling. Harry has asked to be engaged to Mary in a “binding ceremony.” (Told you, witchcraft)
Mary is so confused and considering that over the past few months she’d grown so close to Travis, how can she then marry Harry? But there’s no way for her to back out of it. And when Travis chooses another girl without even a hint of sadness that Mary is being “bound” to another, Mary is even more perplexed. Mary thinks for the longest time that Travis will come to her and will ask to be bound to her instead of the girl he’s marrying, which happens to be a friend of Mary’s. But he doesn’t.
So where do the zombies really come in, you ask?
The night that Mary and Harry are bound ― and Travis and his fiancee, “coincidentally” ― the village is invaded by the unconsecrated! So much friggin’ stuff happening in a 308-page book!
Anyway, village is invaded, Mary, Travis, Mary’s brother, his wife, Harry, and Cass (Travis’ fiancee) narrowly escape, and a nerve-racking adventure ensues. Together, Mary and the others try to find their way out of what is essentially a maze and where do they make it to? ANOTHER VILLAGE. But this one has already been attacked by the unconsecrated and is completely abandoned …. save for the unconsecrated that dwell there.
This is where things get weird.
Through a strange string of events, Mary and Travis end up barricaded alone in one of the village’s houses while everyone else (except for a couple people, mind you, but I won’t tell you who is eliminated) is holed up inside a tree house. Travis and Mary are oddly estranged, like they don’t even know each other. They wander around the house like they’re zombies, themselves. Then Mary becomes paranoid and obsessed with the previous owners of the house, crying and sobbing over their losses and it just gets weird. So I’m sort of annoyed with Mary at this point, but then I feel sorry for her when Travis admits that he was never going to come for her and that he was going to let her marry Harry. That’s not easy to hear.
And the story really just sort of goes downhill (emotionally) from there. By saying anything else, I’ll reveal the devastating event that happens on page 275 so I’ll stop while I’m ahead. On to the disappointments!
Before I begin, please understand that when I say I have so many disappointments, it does not mean that I was necessarily disappointed in the plot or storyline but mainly in the events of the book. Some of them were devastating.
Anyway. As I was saying.
MARY AND TRAVIS’ RELATIONSHIP
I have really been wondering what my greatest disappointment in the book is and I think it actually happens on page 275, which I can’t reveal, but this comes in at a close second, then all the others are tied.
Nothing bothers me more than a poor romance. As you well know, I have no problem with romance in books. I think it is necessary and sometimes I absolutely adore the romance! Other times I abhor it, like in Tiger’s Curse *gag*. I’m not sure I would say I abhor Mary and Travis’ relationship in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but I was certainly not a fan. The romance was rushed, painful to read, awkward, weak and meant to look powerful. I’m actually not sure if Ms. Ryan wanted to make it that way for the purpose of making it look like Mary was reading more into things than she should have been (meaning that Travis had no real feelings for her) or if it was meant to be real and strong and just failed miserably.
Throughout the book, I am confused as to whether or not Travis loves Mary. He is very, very confusing. I lean more towards thinking that Travis does not have feelings for Mary and is just a big flirt but I don’t know. Either way, I still liked his character. I thought he was well-developed. Understand me, Travis is not my gripe! His relationship with Mary is.
For example, Travis shows no interest in Mary until she is the only girl in sight. When he is sick and Mary has to tend to him (and pray for him), Travis shows interest. He talks sweet to her and practically rejoices that she is there, asking the witchy Sister Tabitha if Mary can come and pray for him …. every day. There’s even an almost-kiss at page 54! And considering he’s practically engaged….
Ugh. So. So. So. Confusing.
Personally, I would have preferred there be good romance or no romance. This book has bad romance, therefore, in my opinion, should have no romance. It distracts me from the actual storyline.
If you couldn’t already tell from my description of the book, the pacing is extremely strange. They cram so much into such a short book that I’m not sure whether to say that the pacing is fast or slow, since the first 123 pages are only about life in the village. I wouldn’t say the first 123 pages are boring or slow ― on the contrary, they excellently set up the mystery of the following books ― but they seem to be out of place. 123 pages of normal life within a zombie book? I haven’t read many zombie books but I’m pretty sure that’s not how it goes.
Simply put, Harry annoys me. He sort of acts like Peeta from The Hunger Games, except he’s a little stronger-willed than Peeta and he has a few conflicting attributes ….
Harry acts like a kicked puppy for a while when Mary says that she doesn’t love him, which is always annoying. Yet, when Harry is given the opportunity to come to Mary’s rescue, before she is tossed into the Sanctuary to become a Sister, and claim her as his bride, HE DOESN’T. No explanation is given for this. Then later he decides:
“Oh, yeah, well it wasn’t the right time before but I think Mary’s had enough time to think on her wrongdoings so I’ll relieve her pain and marry her. I suppose. Just to help Mary, of course.”
It then seems like Harry feels like Mary should automatically love him because he “saved” her from an unimaginable fate. As far as I was concerned, Mary wasn’t thriving within the sanctuary but she was with Travis, spending Travis’ last days as an unmarried man with him, and she loved that. I don’t know. Harry bothered me. Maybe you’ll love him!
Now that we have gone over the bad, let’s go over the good.
Mary’s character is awesome. She’s not overly tough but not overly sensitive either. I really can’t complain about Mary too much, apart from the fact that she got a little rattled while in that house with Travis.
The action (when it picked up) was actually very gripping and thrilling.
Mary’s world is extremely well-thought! I absolutely loved the amount of depth in Mary’s society. From the ropes that are used in the “binding ceremony” to the cryptic messages that Mary receives. The Guardians are interesting and the Sisters are perplexing. Everything brings on another question and I so love questions.
All in all, the character development was really good! There were no poorly developed characters in this story. Despite my gripes about Harry, he was not poorly developed. Everyone in the book had a place and a role and they each played it well.
So there’s my thoughts on Ms. Carrie Ryan’s novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I enjoyed the book, though it tended to sway a little darker than I normally like to read, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Angelfall and Enclave. Let me know what you think of the book and if anyone can figure out whether Travis really loves Mary or not, please email me …. It’s driving me crazy.
What’s on your bookshelf?
[Featured image from Forest of Hands and Teeth Wiki]