The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The Forest of Hands and Teeth / 978-0-375-89197-7
I really like zombie literature, and I was really excited to pick up this novel. I was intrigued when one reviewer compared the setting to a combination of "The Village" and "Resident Evil", so I was prepared to like this book when I settled in with the audio book and the e-book, ready to follow along.
Two hundred and thirty-three pages later, I'm at a loss. I guess I'm not the right audience for this book, despite how strongly I was hooked by the premise; I'm not sure who IS the right audience for this book, but it puts me in mind of all the "paranormal romance" books that the "The Twilight Saga" has spawned.
Against all odds, this book is a terribly slow starter. Unlike other recent "teen" novels, like "The Hunger Games", very little happens in the first 100 pages outside of world building and character establishment. Both show initial promise but ultimately bear rough edges - the zombie premise contains major gaps (like why a village with safety-platforms would fail to keep said platforms stocked with food and weapons and other necessities - this ultimately becomes a major plot point, in fact), and the characterization feels shallow to the point where most of the characters seem like unrealistic stereotypes of teenage angst.
When the general zombie mayhem that was promised on the back of the box does finally occur, it's almost on sufferance - *any* sense of adventure and danger is immediately quaffed to make room for more love-quadrangle discussions. The plot of this book is basically Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", but instead of fairies propelling the action forward, a zombie very occasionally pops up to say 'boo'. And this is, fundamentally, very disappointing to me - there's lots of novels out there that center around the complications of teen romance, even under a variety of unusual, difficult, and/or post-apocalyptic conditions, so adding this one as one more tween romance on the pile feels disappointing, and a criminal waste of a good premise.
Wishing no disrespect to the author, a lot of the writing feels very amateur - the main character's running narration repeats itself frequently, and the same relatively minor details crop up repeatedly across the chapters. When reading along with the audio book, I kept finding myself saying, "You just said that, two pages ago!", and it makes the already slow, dreamy pace feel like a crawl. When the zombies *do* occasionally force themselves into the action, it's almost a relief, because then the main characters can stop arguing incessantly over their romance problems.
A final word about the audio book - it feels like the narrator herself found this book deathly dull, as the audio just seems to plod along without much in the way of animation or inflections. The narrator does a nice accent for the character of Sister Tabitha, but everyone else has the same monotonous tone, with no emotional inflections, and even the breathing and pausing seemed a little 'off'.
If you like paranormal or post-apocalyptic teen romances, then I think you may really enjoy this book - it's an interesting premise, to be sure. But if you came for the zombie mayhem or for the post-apocalyptic world building, I think you'll be disappointed and may do better to look elsewhere.
~ Ana Mardoll
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