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Betrothals and zombies and nuns, oh my!

Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Author: Carrie Ryan

Length: 336 pages

Mary is a 16 year old member of her small village precariously situated within the Forest of Hands and Teeth – the territory of The Unconsecrated who hunger for human flesh and are kept at bay by an elaborate system of fences and gates.. For years, the village has been overseen by The Sisterhood with fervent religious teachings and rituals meant to ensure the village’s survival.  Mary’s father disappeared during a Breach of the fences and her mother spends every day watching the hordes of Unconsecrated for a sign of him or his return.  Mary’s mother gets too close to the fences and becomes “Infected” and is released into the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Ian, Mary’s brother, blames her and turns her out. When Harry, the one boy in town to show an interest in Mary, withdraws his claim on her, Mary is forced to join the Sisterhood. As she becomes more familiar with their ways, she realizes that the Sisters may not be protecting the village as rigorously as they claim. Mary’s heart belongs to Travis, Harry’s brother and when he is wounded and brought to the Cathedral, the two rely on one another for support. One night, a stranger appears on one of the gated paths to the village and is escorted by the Sisters into the Cathedral in secret. Mary curiosity about this stranger won’t die and she begins to unravel the mystery surrounding the Sisterhood and The Unconsecrated. In doing so, Mary and those closest to her end up in a quest for survival that will test family bonds, friendship and love.

BRIDGE: This book is an excellent read as well as being well-written. Ryan manages to poetically describe a horrific turn of events for humanity and make it a compelling read. This book could be used to introduce readers to classics such as I Am Legend by Richard Matheson or The Haunting of Hill House  by Shirley Jackson. The subtle elements of horror in Ryan’s novel eerily lull the reader into a sense of complacency in this post-infection world she has created. The battles against the zombies are terrifyingly commonplace. There are elements of the grotesque and elements of romance so it could be used as a whole class read or in literature circles. Either way, when readers get to the end, they will be clamoring to know Mary’s fate.

READERS: This novel is perfect for zombie fans but also for those that wonder just what the world would be like if we were back to fighting for our mere existence. Horror fans will enjoy the zombie battles with just enough gore to satisfy but not enough to turn the stomach. Reluctant readers will be drawn in to the story and have a difficult time putting it down.

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