Sarah's Stars

Carrie Ryan. The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Delacorte $18.99  ISBN 978-0-385-73681-7  308 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 15

Behind me Harry is shouting orders but his words mingle with the siren, all a jumble in my head. A small part of me wonders if this siren will delay the ceremony, if there will still be time for Travis to come for me. I wonder if there really is a breach or if it's something like my mother, someone getting too close to the fence. Someone taking a risk, losing their mind, getting Infected.

Argos scratches at the floor frantically trying to dig his way out. His nails scrabble and slide uselessly on the wood and I can sense his rising panic. He lifts his head as if to howl, his teeth bared, his eyes pleading for me to do something.

Finally I am just reaching for my skirt when I see it. A flash of bright red out of the corner of my eye as it streaks past the window. I know that color. I know how unnatural it is. I know that speed.

The Unconsecrated are here, among us. This is no drill.

In Mary's world, the number one rule is to never get too close to the fences. If you come too close, one of the Unconsecrated could grab you and bite you, which means infection, or death. The fences are the only things keeping the Forest of Hands and Teeth from completely destroying the village.

In a post-apocalyptic world, curious Mary makes her home among the stern and hardworking descendants of the survivors of a deadly infection that turns ordinary human beings into rotting, bloodthirsty monsters called the Unconsecrated. Ever since she can remember, Mary has been a friend to Cassandra and the two brothers, Travis and Harry. After a tragedy turns Mary's parents into Unconsecrated, it's either marriage or the Sisterhood and nobody will speak for her, so Mary finds herself making a home at the mysterious chapel. But the Sisterhood seems to have many secrets. Dark corridors, ancient books and a hidden newcomer named Gabrielle turn Mary's world upside-down. Who is Gabrielle and where is she from? Could she possibly be from beyond the Unconsecrated, beyond the Forest? Is it even possible that she could be from the ocean, a mythical place where the water stretches as far as the eye can see?

Just as Mary has the answers in her grasp, the fences are breached, and the Unconsecrated attack. The only thing that will keep Mary alive means doing the unthinkable...going past the gates that keep them safe and into the Forest of Hands and Teeth...

From the very beginning, Mary's dark world drew me in. The premise of a world inhabited by zombies seems to be stolen right from the movies, but Carrie Ryan's extraordinary imagination brings depth to the story. It's in turn a desperate survival tale, a violent horror, and an unpredictable romance. The atmosphere of the story was incredible and almost tangible. It was so bleak and scary but addicting too. I absolutely could not put it down. As a paranormal romance, I found it a refreshing break from the legions of vampire and faerie stories storming the shelves in the teen section of bookstores. The world that Mary inhabits was richly imagined and full of life among so much death. Truthfully, it was a pretty depressing book. Because I got so into it, some parts just broke my heart. But the ending leaves me satisfied. It's not such a cliffhanger that it keeps me up at night, but there are still many questions to be answered and zombies to slaughter and there is hope, finally, for Mary.

I give Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth five out of five stars.

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