Mary lives in a small village that is surrounded by a fence, and beyond that, the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Living in the forest are the Unconsecrated —er, not living, I guess, I should be saying, undead-ing?— because they are basically, what we would call, zombies. Her village is ruled by the Sisterhood, a religious governing body of sorts that controls everything and everyone. According to the Sisterhood, their village is the last group of surviving humans on Earth. Mary has always followed the rules, and is now facing the choice between a life in the sisterhood or an arranged marriage. A breaching in the fence changes Mary’s life forever, and the entire world she has ever known.
WOW. So, let me tell you, this book blew me away; I was not expecting to love it so much. It made it to my favorites shelf! (Well, the whole trilogy did). I have never read a zombie book and I never thought I would enjoy one, but this story is so beautifully written. It is beautiful and tragic all at the same time. It really gets down to the essence of humanity and what makes us human, and the difference between surviving and living.
Mary is an extremely thoughtful girl who I just fell in love with. Her interest in what’s beyond the forest and her love of the ocean that she has never seen give her a lovely spark of life from the beginning. It is true, in the beginning she is much more timid, but throughout the story she grows and grows into a fighter.
I ended up really caring for the other characters in the book (so it ended up being a sob fest because zombie stories aren’t the happiest of things to read). Travis and Henry and their personal relationships with Mary were beautiful and tragic and lovely (just like the entire book, really). Her love for her brother and her mother really shined through and also broke my heart. I loved the culture touches and rituals that were added to make the village really feel like a society. The mystery of the fences also was brilliant.
I absolutely loved the writing. It was poetic and descriptive and dark but also light and beautiful. Her words literally floated across the page. That’s the only way I can describe it. They floated. I aspire to write like Carrie Ryan.
Basically, this entire book made me feel so much. I was heartbroken but at the same time I was moved. I was falling in love with humanity and realizing our fragility. Mary lives in a world where she is reminded of death every moment of every day, yet she still manages to live, to truly live, in spite of it.