Mary and her brother Jed live in a post-apocalyptic world, in a small village overseen by the Sisterhood and the Guardians. The Sisterhood is the reunion of church and state, a governing body that rules through their faith. The Guardians keep them safe from the Forest of Hands and Teeth, always outside their gates.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth refer to the zombies that wander, ever-present, just outside of the settlement. When the settlement fences are breached, Mary, her brother and a small group of survivors escape and seek the ocean, where Mary believes they will be able to start over. But they have to make it through the forest first.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth is one of those books that has layer upon layer of complex storytelling, all centered around the main character, Mary. Ms. Ryan explores her relationships – with her mother, her brother, her best friend, fiance, and his brother, her true love – against the backdrop of the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. She is an obsessive character, driven by her drive to question. What lies beyond the settlement? Are there more settlements, more people, out there? What secrets does the Sisterhood keep from everyone? Where is the ocean, that her mother raised her on stories about? At times, the character appears cold and self-serving; she is single-minded in her purpose.
As the first in a post-apocalyptic series (The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places are the sequels), the book is bleak but compelling. It doesn’t focus on the zombie horror, but it’s an ever-present threat that crawls down the reader’s spine and makes one’s heart beat with a sense of urgency at key points.
Author Carrie Ryan writes for middle grade and young adult readers, and has a full list of work available on her website, where readers can also follow her blog, follow her on social media, find out about appearances and news, and download icons, buttons, banners, and bookmarks.