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Amazon Exclusive: Scott Westerfeld Reviews The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Scott Westerfeld is the author of three sets of books for young adults, including theUglies series, theMidnighters series, and a series of stand-alone novels set in contemporary New York, includingSo Yesterday,Peeps, andThe Last Days. BothUgliesandPeepswere named Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association in 2006. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review ofThe Forest of Hands and Teeth:

Teenagers love a good apocalypse. Who doesn't? All those annoying rules suspended. Society's pretenses made irrelevant. Malls to be looted. School out forever.

But in The Forest and Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan's marvelous debut novel, the post-apocalypse is defined more by constraints than freedoms. The book begins seven generations after the Return, an undead plague that has ended civilization as we know it. Of course, a zombie outbreak usually means shotguns and mall looting--the very essence of freedom. But more than a century on from the Return, the malls have already been looted, and shotguns are a distant memory. The novel's heroine, Mary, lives in a village surrounded by one last vestige of industrial technology: a chain-link fence, beyond which is a vast forest full of shambling, eternally ravenous undead--the forest of hands and teeth. No villager ever goes outside this fence, unless they want to die. (And given this bleak scenario, some do.)

Mary's world is bounded not only by the fence but by the archaic traditions of her people, which are enforced by a religious order called the Sisterhood. Marriages, childbirth, death, every stage of life must be controlled to sustain the village's precarious existence. Even the houses are circumscribed--literally--with passages of scripture carved into every entrance to remind the inhabitants of the rules that sustain human life amid the horrors of the forest.

After so long an isolation, the village is beginning to forget. Some doubt that there really was a time before the Return, with giant cities and wondrous technologies. Others believe that nothing at all exists beyond the forest of hands and teeth. And nobody but Mary and her slightly mad mother believes in something called "the ocean," a huge and unbounded space beyond the reach of the undead.

Mary is the sort of teenager who dreams of bigger things. Not just the ocean, but epic romance and adventure beyond the fence, maybe even other villages somewhere out there, safe behind their own fences. She believes that answers can be found to questions like, What made the Return happen? And what was it like before?

Escaping the confines of home for the greater world is, of course, one of the great themes of teen literature. But few heroes in any genre have faced an obstacle as daunting as the forest of hands and teeth. Though Ryan's writing is as lyrical as her title, this novel is driven by the same grim relentlessness that animates any good zombie film. Elegant prose and undead hordes combine to create a story where high drama feels completely unforced, where tension is constant, and where an image as simple as the open sea is achingly romantic.

Zombies have been metaphors for many things: consumerism, contagion in an overpopulated world, the inevitability of death. But here they resonate with a particularly teenage realization about the world--that social limits and backward traditions are numberless and unstoppable, no matter how shambling they may seem at first.

And yet we must try to escape them anyway, lest we wither inside the fence.--Scott Westerfeld

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Carrie Ryan

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ISBN-10:  0385736827
ISBN-13:  978-0385736824
Author:  Carrie Ryan
Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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review by . August 22, 2010
This is a very entertaining novel; a poignant mix of love story and zombie horror story - unusual to say the least. Our heroes live as sheltered life as possible in a small village which is fenced off from the zombie who constantly press against the fence, hoping to feast on the living within. Our hero Mary dreams of the ocean, and the thought that there may be something beyond the forest of hands and teeth that so limit her movements. She also dreams of the boy she loves, and the life that she …
review by . May 11, 2010
Egad Brain! Shiver shiver, snicker snicker. Thrills and chills galore are embedded within the pages of The Forest of Hands and Teeth then wrapped up in an emotional roller coaster. Why did I read this book? Zombies scare me silly - and add the insanity of the innocent rural lifestyle and well you have zombies munching on heart-breakingly innocent villagers. This is much different than zombies munching on snarky British guys, at least they seem like they deserve it. I'm still in an emotional cloud …
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