I had mixed feelings when reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth. It was both what I expected, and different than how I expected. The first half of the story, about a village isolated and fenced off from zombies, barely hovering in existence through strict prayer and encouragement of procreation was as I expected. The tones (solemn) and the pace (you can't tear your eyes away from the page) were what I expected from The Forest of Hands and Teeth as well. What surprised me was the lack of character development, and in some places just wishy-washy character development, and of course, the intense melodramatic narration throughout.
Mary lives in a secluded village surrounded by a fence that keeps encroaching zombies at bay and is reigned over by the wisdom and strict religious fervor of The Sisterhood and The Guardians. Mary's mother has always taught her that before there were zombies there were skyscraper buildings and the ocean, a vast expanse of salt water. Mary grows up believing in these tales and clinging to them with more faith than she does to God. When Mary's mother is infected and cast out among the Unconsecrated zombies, Mary's world crumbles and she is adopted into The Sisterhood when nobody steps forward to claim her as a betrothed. But The Sisterhood has many secrets, and between falling in love with her best friend's betrothed and discovering that perhaps she's not meant to live a life in the village--that perhaps she's meant to seek the ocean--Mary begins to question everything she has grown up being told was true about her world.
Most of the time I was reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth I was gripping the edge of some nearby piece of furniture and shouting "what are you doing Mary?!" She is definitely the girl in horror-slasher movies that decides to go up the stairs to find out what that chainsaw sound was instead of running out the front door screaming bloody murder. Too many times Mary "no longer cared" who could hear her, or would toss herself into danger's way because she was emotionally distraught or fed up with the way of the world, etc. My disappointment with The Forest of Hands and Teeth, aside from being a little over-the-top in the drama department, was the character development. There isn't a whole lot of it and at times the characters' personalities flip-flip around and seem superficial. All-in-all, The Forest of Hands and Teeth is one of those books I would recommend reading on a long plane ride because the pacing is so breakneck that it makes the time reading it fly by, but the story is simple and straightforward enough that if the person next to you has a screaming infant and the flight attendants use the intercom as Open Mic Night, you're still able to keep focus on where the plot is going.
Rating: *** (3)