by Carrie Ryan
Sigh. This book had such potential, and I was so primed to love it after the first 3 chapters and then it was just sort of a victim of itself.
The biggest problem was that it seemed the author couldn't quite decide what kind of book she was writing. Is it horror? Romance? Mystery? Suspense? It tried to be all of these things and then failed to be any of them well.
Initially, this book reminded me of The Village - a group of people live in a pioneer style village surrounded by an intimidating forest filled with disturbing creatures. In The Forest of Hands and Teeth those creatures are basically zombies: a horde of the undead - mindless and hungry for flesh. They are called "The Unconsecrated". Young Mary has recently lost her father to the forest (we never actually find out how he got into the forest in the first place). Then, at the very beginning of the book, she loses her mother as well. Mary is orphaned, and her older brother kicks her out of the house. Mary is then forced to join the Sisterhood - a type of nunnery.
At this point the story becomes a mix of romance and mystery. Mary tends to the sick Travis and begins to develop feelings for him. At the same time, she uncovers mysterious happenings at the church that begin to suggest that there is life outside the Forest and that the Sisters are trying to hide it. Honestly, this is the kind of story I was hoping for. Soon though, our genre shifts.
The Unconsecrated breach the village and Mary manages to escape with her friends Travis, Harry and Cass, as well as her brother Jed, his wife Beth, and a small boy named Jacob. The group has no choice but to set off down the narrow fenced-in path through the forest in hopes of finding civilization on the other side. Now our book becomes more of a horror/suspense novel and mostly stays that way til the end. I'm disappointed.
But more than just the author switching genres partway through - she also drops multiple story lines! At the Cathedral, Mary finds mysterious rooms, overhears whispered conversations, finds a girl from outside the village, and NONE of that gets explained. Ever. Mary doesn't even seem to speculate or wonder about it again.
Also, the romance falls flat because you're not ever quite sure who you should wish she ends up with. She loves Travis, but then she likes Harry after all and is mad at Travis, then she loves Travis again. Then Travis makes her mad, and she misses Harry. I think we were ultimately supposed to like Travis the best, but I liked Harry!
(*SPOILERS*) And then, the end! The end of this book was just terrible! I refuse to call it and end. It felt as if surely the last 10 chapters of the book had been misplaced! We find out the outcome for 3 of the 7 characters (2 because they die). The rest are either just assumed dead or left sitting helplessly in the forest with virtually no food, water or hope for making it out. What is up with that?!
This is how it should have ended - Travis doesn't get bitten. Jed sacrifices himself to the Unconsecrated to help them escape instead of Travis. Travis, Mary, Harry, Cass and Jacob find the path out of the forest and to the ocean. (And the path actually goes all the way to the coast - none of this lame running through the forest and down the cliffs aimlessly in the dark to escape the Unconsecrated). The village has better defences against the Unconsecrated, or perhaps they find that the Unconsecrated are confined to the forest by some ancient spell, or maybe the village has found a cure for the Unconsecrated. Any of those would be better than the non-ending the author came up with. (*END SPOILERS*)
Disappointing. It could have been great. As is, it's just mediocre.