Ryan, C. (2009). The Forest of Hands and Teeth. NY: Delacorte. 310 pages.
Wow, I could not put this book down. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where an infection has turned hordes of people into “Unconsecrated,” the main character Mary is struggling to figure out where she fits in. Her village is surrounded by a high-reaching chain-link fence, which is designed to keep the Unconsecrated out – because the Unconsecrated hunger for human blood. Both of Mary’s parents have been infected, and her brother does not allow her to live with his family; instead, she must join the Sisterhood (basically like a convent). When Mary’s childhood friend suffers from an infected broken leg, he is moved into the cathedral that the Sisterhood occupies because it is like the village’s hospital. Mary falls in love with Travis as he spends months there recovering, even though Travis has been pledged to be married to Mary’s best friend Cassie, and Mary herself is pledged to Travis’s older brother Harry. Mary dreams every day of traveling to the ocean that her mother told her about; she dreams of breaking free from the village and basically an arranged marriage, but there is no way past the fence and the Unconsecrated – until, one day, a mysterious young girl appears from beyond the fence. This gives Mary hope that the ocean really does exist and that she might travel there one day. When a horrible breach happens and the Unconsecrated take over the village, Mary, Harry, Travis, Cassie, and Mary’s brother manage to survive and leave the village, only to find themselves in a maze of fences. This is a story of adventure, love, desolation, and what to do when all hope seems to be gone. I really enjoyed the plot twists and unexpected storylines. Ryan’s writing is beautiful and detailed. Highly recommended.