Carrie Ryan, Delecorte Books for Young Readers, 2009, 308 pages, young adult dystopian.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In Mary's world there are simple truths.
The Sisterhood always knows best.
The Guardians will protect and serve.
The Unconsecrated will never relent.
And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.
But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future-between the one she loves and the one who loves her.
And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?
This book was not quite what I had expected, yet it was great and I really enjoyed it. For a zombie book, the psychological element was way more prominent than the physical element - the threat and moaning of the Unconsecrated are constant and surrounded the story though there were very few actual encounters.
The book takes place in a dystopian future where the Unconsecrated, or zombies, have taken over the world and life has become about basic survival. The story is told from Mary's point of view in a first person present narrative, which is ideal for the introspective nature of the book. Sometimes I found this a bit off putting, with Mary's thoughts absolutely dominating the book.
Mary is an interesting character - she is a young woman who questions things and is strong, strong willed and physically able to take care of herself (I love books with strong heroines). She grew up on the stories of the world before the Return and dreams of a life beyond simply existing and being hemmed in by the fences that keep the Unconsecrated out. She is determined to find a life beyond the fences and dreams of the ocean that her mother has told her about - something so foreign no one even believes it exists. As much as I like Mary, she does come off as selfish at times, as the strength of her dreams overwhelms everything and everyone else, but then again, maybe this makes her a visionary?
I also enjoyed the other characters in the book, Mary's brother Jeb, her best friend Cass, Harry and Travis are all interesting and show growth in the book. I didn't always actually like the characters, but I could understand and appreciate their reactions. They each found their own strengths, though, as well as their own reasons to survive. One of the best additions is Argos, the little zombie fighting dog - he is fun and helps to lighten things up.
The relationship between Mary and Travis was only OK for me. I didn't really understand it at the beginning and found myself a bit frustrated with the pair of them.
Carrie Ryan's writing is beautiful and often even poetic. She even had descriptions that made me stop and reread them because I enjoyed them so much. I also liked how she explored various themes, such as the nature of choices and how that makes us human, safety and survival versus freedom and pursuing dreams, and God versus organized religion.
This is defiantly at different kind of young adult dystopian than many of the others out there that I have read. The horror is real and I could feel the tension as I read the book. This is a maudlin, dark book, with a strong heroine who has her own flaws. I can really see those who like dark young adult novels with romance, or are looking for an alternative to vampire books, liking this.
Here is the book trailer from YouTube: