Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Book 1

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? -from Goodreads

I read this books for my September Dusty Bookshelf Challenge in the Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Fanatics group on Goodreads.  I had heard a lot of positive comments about the series and meant to read it for a while, but hadn't gotten around to it.  So I was pretty excited to start reading the book when September rolled around.

However, The Forest of Hands and Teeth was definitely not what I expected.  I've had a mixed experience with YA dystopian novels.  I really liked The Hunger Games and Divergent, but wasn't terribly impressed with Wither (see review).  The Forest of Hands and Teeth turned out to be another one that didn't quite grab me.  At no point in the story did I really care what happened to any of the characters.  I wasn't upset when anyone was bitten or nervous about their ability to escape from the Unconsecrated.  I suspect that if I had been, TFOHAT would have been quite enjoyable, because there was certainly plenty of action.  But as it was, I felt like I was slogging through it just for the sake of finishing (which I did, or I wouldn't be writing a review).

The concept behind TFOHAT was an interesting one.  The spread of zombie infection ends civilization as we know it and mandates the establishment of isolated villages with strict, exception-less laws.  The Sisterhood and their secrets were a particularly intriguing aspect, but one that failed to yield much fruit, unless the Sisterhood reappears in the sequels.  The entire culture of the village had the potential to present more conflict for Mary, but aside from her unhappiness at having to join the Sisterhood, I didn't really see that in the book.

Less appealing still was the romance in the book.  At first it was sort of like A Midsummer Night's Dream, except A Midsummer Night's Dream is funny and works out in the end.  The idea that, if Cass loves Harry and Travis and Mary love each other, the couples don't work out that way because Harry doesn't want them to, was just not credible to me.  Not that I was a particular fan of either couple, I just found the obstacles to Travis and Mary being together a little absurd.

The characters as a whole never really aroused my sympathies.  None of them seemed particularly dynamic or unique, and I couldn't particularly like or dislike any of them. While the best authors paint their characters in such a way that their actions in any given situation seem inevitable, given who they are, I just didn't feel that here.  The entire time Mary was determined to go on through the Forest and find the ocean, while the others wanted to turn back, I couldn't really understand their motives.  They were just never real to me.

What the book lacked that might have resolved almost all of these issues was humor.  Not that I expect every book I read to be funny, or a dystopian novel to be a barrel of laughs--far from it.  But even the most desparate situations can contain an element of humor.  It's one of humanity's best defense mechanisms, sometimes the only thing that keeps you from giving in to despair.  I wouldn't expect Mary to have a funny retort on her tongue every page, but I can't remember a single instance where I laughed reading this book.  I think the inclusion of a little bit of humor would have made a huge difference in the quality of the book and my perception of the characters.  And after all, without humor, what's the difference between us and the zombies?

Charcters: 1 cupcake
Plot: 3 cupcakes
Style: 1 cupcake
Overall: 2 cupcakes

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