Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan
SeriesThe Forest of Hands and Teeth #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 308
Format/Source: Paperback/Purchased  

Age Group/Genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Zombies

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 by so much death? (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)

Recently I started a book club in my area for adults who like to read YA, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth was our first selection. When we met up to discuss the book, it seems like I was in the minority. Because one person hated the book (although she continued to read the entire series and hated it as well, which baffles me–why continue reading a series that you hate?), and the others kind of ranged from not really liking it to liking it but really disliking the main character, Mary. But I LOVED it.

This was my first zombie book and perhaps that explains why. Maybe there are tons of better zombie books out there, but because this was my first one, I really loved it. And maybe I loved it because prior to this year, I HATED anything to do with zombies. And then I decided to see what all the fuss was over the TV show The Walking Dead, and now I’m hooked. I want to read ALL the zombie books. So maybe I’m just so in love with zombies right now that I would probably love anything that I read, as long as it was about zombies.

But I don’t know if that’s all true. I found lots of things about The Forest of Hands and Teeth that I enjoyed, and I think I would have enjoyed them even if this was my 50th zombie book to read. For instance, I loved that this book is set at least 100 years after a zombie apocalypse. The zombies are still there, and they still pose a threat to humans, but instead of showing how humanity reacts to a zombie apocalypse, it shows how humans have sustained years after the event.

And because this is years after the apocalypse, it’s still falls into the post-apocalyptic category, but the village that Mary lives in makes the book fall into the dystopian category as well, since things aren’t exactly as those who are in charge make them seem. But it also has that thriller-type aspect because the characters do have to fight for their lives against zombies. And yet the story is also introspective, with Mary and the other characters having to determine how they want to live in this kind of world, and deciding what it really means to live. Is it just surviving? Or is there more?

I also really enjoyed when Mary would think about the zombies and who they used to be. It seems like a lot of times, zombies are used as a kind of nameless, mindless villain, something that is just evil and has no complexity at all. Yet in The Forest of Hands and Teeth (and often in The Walking Dead, as well), characters reflect on how the zombies used to be human, just like them, and that they themselves may one day be just like the zombies that they are killing.

Favorite Quote…

I came across a lot of lines that I loved in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but here is my favorite non-spoilery one:

“We are our own memory-keepers and we have failed ourselves. It is like that game we played in school as children. Sitting in a circle, one student whispers a phrase into another student’s ear and the phrase is passed around until the last student in the circle repeats what she hears, only to find out it is nothing like what it is supposed to be.
That is our life now.”
My rating for The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan:
5 stars. I really loved it. I had a few issues with the book, but the story, characters, action, and suspense outweighed all of the cons.
Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ Penguin Random House
Disclaimer:  I purchased this book myself.  I was not compensated in any way for this review.


  1. Micheline D

    May 13, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    It's funny how literally no two people ever read the same book…which is why one book can get so many mixed impressions. This book has been recommended to me multiple times from trusted bloggers and readers – but, since I'm kind of like the old you in my hatred of zombies – I never picked it up. You've made me reconsider here^^ which is quite the feat ;) I've warmed to to the fantasy version of zombies this past year (necromancy) so maybe I'll pick this one up soon :)

  2. Kate Midnight Book Girl

    May 14, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Yeah, I did not like this book that much… which I wanted to- I love the titles, I love zombies, I love post-apocalyptic settings.

    But I do understand reading a series you don't like all that much- I used to do that. Mostly it was before blogging, but sometimes it was just because I cared the tiniest bit about one or two characters or plotlines, so I read the whole series in hopes it would get better (House of Night, The Chemical Garden- I'm talking about you)

    But yeah for book club discussion!

  3. Chrystal

    May 21, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    Oh I am so glad you loved it. It was one of my first zombie reads as well and I just really enjoyed the world that was created. I loved seeing how the humans kept living all.while the zombies never faded away. I loved the entire series and the novellas too. I hope you'll keep reading the rest of the series!

Leave a Reply

Want to include a link to one of your blog posts below your comment? Enter your URL in the website field, then click the button below to get started.