The Most Intense YA Read So Far Of 2009!

forest

Not since the Hunger Games have I been so engrossed in a book. I could not put Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth down. I felt like I was there in the forest, full of fear of the character’s precarious situation and full of hope that there is another village somewhere that survived.
Mary lives in a post-apocalyptic world where much of humanity is infected with a type of disease which turns people into zombies. Some zombie books can be rather goofy. This book is not! She lives in a village surrounded by a dark forest. The setting very much reminded me of the M. Night Shyamalan movie, “The Village.” A series of metal fences and gates are the only thing keeping the living humans apart from the “Unconsecrated.” Harsh rules enforced by “The Sisterhood” are meant to keep the people safe and preserve humanity. The people of the village are led to believe they are the only humans left.

The story takes off running when we learn Mary’s father is likely one of the Unconsecrated. Her mother, in her grief decides to join him rather than stay alive. The description of her change and how she’s dragged into the forest by her ankle is great horror story telling! Mary must suffer the consequences when her brother hands her to the Sisterhood because the boy she loves has not asked for her hand in marriage. The story takes another fantastic twist when we learn someone from the outside has found their way to the village. Mary won’t stop until she has answers about the girl, Gabriella.

This book is about so many different themes woven beautifully together. It’s about wanting. The hunger and want of the Unconsecrated is unending. They keep going even as their bodies can no longer move. Mary’s mother wants her husband so much she is willing to become one of the Unconsecrated.  It is about dreaming of the great perhaps. Mary knows there is something out there. That curiosity never wavers. She puts herself in dangerous situations in an attempt to satisfy her curiosity. I could barely breathe as she hid in the basement of the Cathedral trying to find out what happened to Gabriella. She knows if she’s caught she’ll likely be tossed into the forest as food for the zombies. It is about love verses duty. Mary wants Travis, but Travis is willing to step aside because his brother loves her too. It is about how The Sisterhood withholds information and keeps the population ignorant, because they feel it will save lives. But mostly for me, this book is about the search for truth, even though everyone you know tries to stop you. Mary never stops believing. The ending, even though not a happy one, is satisfying. I love the way she figures out the gates and which one goes to the ocean. I love the struggle to survive and not accepting the status quo.

I can’t wait for Carrie Ryan’s second book, The Dead-Tossed Waves, where we learn about Mary’s daughter. The Dead-Tossed Waves will be released in March 2010.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Talk about how the strict enforcers of religious rules are women and not men. Does this change things?

Talk about Mary’s mother’s decision to join the Unconsecrated. If a loved one was lost, would you do the same?

Did The Sisterhood have a right to keep the villages away from the truth?

Talk about sacrifice. For example how Travis was willing to sacrifice himself to save the others. He was also willing to sacrifice his love for Mary so his brother could marry her.

Is duty more important than dreams?

Did The Sisterhood have a right to keep the villages away from the truth?

Talk about sacrifice.  For example how Travis was willing to sacrifice himself to save the others.  He was also willing to sacrifice his love for Mary so his brother could marry her.

How do you think Gabriella was infected?  Why was she so much faster than the others?  Any theories?

Talk about how Mary felt when she found the pictures of New York City.  She was amazed by the buildings and had no idea places like that once existed.

Why did Travis wait to long to share information about Gabriella?

Talk about the ending.  What should happen next?

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