In The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Mary spends her days in the village under the watchful eye of the Sisterhood while the Unconsecrated press against the fences, desperate to infect the living flesh within. The village is the entire world, but Mary dreams of an ocean, a vast expanse of water where there are no Unconsecrated. When her village is overrun, she and so few others survive to flee deep into the Forest, where they learn that the Sisterhood kept many secrets in the name of order.
InThe Dead-Tossed Waves, Gabry has lived a quiet life in the lighthouse with her mother, too caught by fear to venture beyond the Barrier to the ruins of the amusement park beyond with the others her age- until Catcher asks her to go. An attack leaves half of them dead, half banished, and Gabry crippled with guilt. Truth is a slippery thing that can leave you reeling, but if she’s going to help the boy she loves- or the boy she could love- she’ll have to find strength she never even know existed.
Then came The Dark and Hollow Places, the conclusion of the Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy by Carrie Ryan. Since Elias left, Annah has existed as little more than an Unconsecrated herself, functioning but not living. Then, impossibly, she sees the sister she abandoned so long ago in the Forest, alive and well in the Dark City. The city is just as suddenly overwhelmed with a millions-deep horde of Unconsecrated. Trapped in the Recruiters’ Sanctuary, Annah will finally have to decide if there’s a point to shuffling mindlessly through the days or if she has the courage to truly live in spite of everything.
I am not a zombie person. I don’t like zombie movies, I don’t read zombie graphic novels, so the idea of reading a zombie YA didn’t exactly take me to my happy place. But- we were getting a lot of requests for it, and librarians were wondering if it was okay for the middle and high school libraries, so I finally picked up the paperback and sat down to read the first one.
And promptly fell in love with the world. It took a little while to get over flashbacks from The Village, but I was captivated by how tiny and isolated the village was within the forest of zombies- or Unconsecrated as those within the Sisterhood’s influence call them- and by Mary’s fierce dreams and yearning for the ocean. I was equally appalled by her selfishness. That selfishness and the consequences it creates are a very large part of the book, so it definitely serves a purpose, but it made it very difficult for me to like Mary, which made it difficult for me to want to continue the series.
I’m glad I did. The Dead-Tossed Waves took us in an entirely new direction. Mary was desperate to see the world beyond the Forest; Gabry is just as desperate to cling to the perceived safety of Vista and her mother. While launched by similar tragedies, Gabry’s journey is always tied to other people: to make sure Catcher isn’t alone, to learn more about Elias, to rescue Cira, to find her mother. She isn’t selfish- she’s afraid, and the ways she works through that fear over the course of the book is both compelling and moving.
In some ways, it’s very hard to talk about the third book without giving away huge spoilers for the second, and if you haven’t read this series yet, I don’t want to ruin some of the important reveals. Let’s see, how can I proceed with caution…I love the conflict within Annah, that knife-sharp question of the value, the point, of life in the midst of so much death. Her feelings for her newly re-discovered sister are fractured and scattered, all over the spectrum, and entirely believable. It’s beautifully done. I wish I knew more about the Recruiter Rebellion. It’s mentioned so many times, is significant in so many ways, and yet the actual event in nebulous. Why did they rebel? What happened to the Protectorate? What side was the general populace on- and why? These things feel really important, especially when it comes to understanding a few of the characters and the choices they make, but we’re not given much. Perhaps Annah, as the narrator, doesn’t know, but it still feels like a hole.
Something that is probably both good and bad: the ending doesn’t feel like an ending. Of the book, yes, but not of the series, so seeing this listed as the final book is a little disheartening. On the one hand, I kind of get it: so much of the trilogy is dependant upon the claustrophobic feeling of being penned in, so to suddenly open up the world to that extent would create the opposite feeling of endlessless. Ryan has said that there will be short stories within this world; I fervently hope some of them take place after this conclusion because I desperately want to know.
Eveni f you’re not a zombie fan, do yourself a favor and pick up this series. All three are available in hard cover and e-book, the first two are also available in paperback. The questions raised within the stories are haunting and not easily answered.
Until next time~