The Forest of Hands and Teeth starts out with Mary talking about the ocean. Right from then, multiple questions already started attacking my brain. Why is there ‘no ocean’ in this book? Is the ocean really gone, did it somehow dry up, or is it because Carrie Ryan wrote the book in a post-apocalyptic setting? But wait. Maybe this is a dystopian novel, and the ocean being ‘real’ is kept a secret from the society!
Before I move on, let me get one thing straight. I never research a story before I buy it from my local bookstore. I refrain from reading reviews as well, especially if there are spoilers. I prefer to be surprised.
That’s why I know I’m going to enjoy a book when right from the first page; I already know the plot is full of depth. When I immediately have a lot of questions, I know that the book is going to be twisty and full of surprises at every turn. Just from the first page of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I already expected a lot.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
Every time I turned a page, more mysteries unraveled, and more subplots popped up. The characters intrigued me, especially The Sisterhood, with their well-kept secrets and creepy personalities. The idea of the Unconsecrated was a nice touch too, especially because it reminded me so much of The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Except in this one, once you get infected, you are ‘reborn’ as a zombie, as a being who has lost its humanity.
The protagonist, Mary, was an interesting character. She was a naturally inquisitive one and I especially liked that, since the book was written in a first person POV, so what Mary saw, I saw. What she learned, I learned. To be honest, though she was a great character, Mary simply didn’t…strike me. She didn’t get into my head like some other protagonists in other books. I didn’t sympathize with her and I didn’t really feel her as a character either. But that isn’t such a big problem for me.
Now, let’s talk about Jed, Mary’s brother. Jed for me, was a wishy-washy character and sort of annoying at the same time. When he rejected Mary at the start, I didn’t really dislike him yet. After all, it’s nice to see a brother who isn’t the overprotective paternal figure to his little sister. (Not that I don’t like those, of course. It’s just nice to see a change in character) But then, in the middle of the book, he started getting along with Mary again, and for me, that’s such a huge inconsistency. First, he was all-”You are useless. You belong to the Sisterhood. You are not my sister.” *slams door in Mary’s face* Then, he started saying-”Mary, I love you! You’re my family, ahhhh.”
I didn’t mind it a lot while I was reading, but still.
In this book, Mary’s love interests are Harry and Travis.
Okay, first things first. The romance was…well, not very well developed.
Mary supposedly ‘loves’ Travis though in the book, the reason she fell for him was because of the nightly visits to Travis while he was sick, and him believing in her dreams of the ocean.
I understand that they were childhood friends, and that maybe their experiences back then were what drove them to fall in love, but I don’t think it’s very believable unless it’s stressed at some point.
Harry is..somewhat confusing. Though it is made clear that he is attracted to Mary, it also seems that he is undecided as well. I thought that this would be some kind of love triangle–wherein Harry loves Mary, Mary loves Travis, but Travis is torn between duty and love–it actually seems that Harry is the one torn. Torn between a newfound love for Cass, but a wisp of attraction still there for Mary.As the story progresses, though, there is less impact on the romance, which is actually good in this case.
Next up is Gabrielle. Gabrielle was a different kind of Unconsecrated–faster and stronger than the average one. But then her blessing came with a curse–she would burn out swiftly and eventually die. I know Gabrielle was essential in the plot because she was the one who left clues for Mary, leading her to escape, but she seems sort of underdeveloped, and that makes her look useless to the plot. Where did Gabrielle come from? Why did the Sisterhood confine her, even though she wasn’t Unconsecrated yet? How did she become Unconsecrated? Many questions, so little answers. I guess Gabrielle is supposed to stay a mystery.
The last character I will be talking about in this review is Cass, Mary’s supposed ‘best friend.’ Okay, I know there are far more characters to choose from. I could talk about Sister Tabitha, for instance. But I feel like ranting about discussing Cass’s character instead. Cass was horribly annoying, in my opinion. I get that the author had to make her dutiful to the society and its laws, especially because Mary was already the ‘rebel’ of sorts, but I hated how Cass seemed so fake. I understand how she started doubting Mary when they fled, I mean, she grew up believing in everything the Sisterhood said and Mary’s word seemed so airy compared to theirs, but what I didn’t like was when I found out she never believed in Mary the whole time. Even when they were kids.
Since I’ve given such poor comments for the characters, I bet you’re probably wondering why I liked this book. Well, the plot made up for it. Big time.
It seems like every action Mary takes unveils something, twists a plot in the story. While in the Sisterhood, Mary learned about the many secrets they were hiding, though she never exactly found out what. In the Forest of Hands and Teeth, Mary discovered another village, and her group stayed there for a while, basking in the safety it could offer. Until…the Unconsecrated struck again.
I reveled in the action and suspense each page brought, though the happenings that led to the ending disappointed me. Though Mary did get what she wanted in the end–in fact, the thing that she wanted the most–she was all alone again, similar to when she was in the Sisterhood. Well, she did find someone new, but I guess that’s for a different story.
Spoilers start here, because I can’t resist.
No, just no. Travis died. After the great lengths Mary went for their relationship that happened? I mean, sure, their relationship wasn’t that developed, but I like a happy ending just like the next person. Also, what happens to Cass and Harry? That was never mentioned. I guess Carrie Ryan wants to leave it to the readers’ imaginations, but still. Lastly, Jed. I know Jed probably died, but it seems so…I don’t know, like the plot was still left with little holes in them. But hey, I’m not complaining. I got a really good read. Besides, there are still sequels that might reveal the answers to my questions.
Overall, The Forest of Hands and Teeth was a haunting read, a story filled with secrets and interlaced with intrigue in every corner. Though there is certainly room for character development, the plot outshines almost all the flaws presented and I would certainly recommend this to a reader who enjoys fast-paced stories with unique plots.