Ryan returns with a companion to her critically acclaimed debut, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which functions as something of a retelling of that story, albeit with a different protagonist. Gabry lives in the seaside town of Vista, the same place that Mary landed at the end of the previous book. Like Mary's former village, Vista is carefully protected from the Mudo (the Unconsecrated), zombielike humans constantly seeking people to infect. After a reckless nighttime adventure with her friends turns tragic, Gabry avoids punishment, but can't escape the changes to and revelations about her life that quickly mount. Like its predecessor, this book features a breach of the town, an escape into the Forest, a love triangle, the ever-present and inexhaustible Mudo, and an extraordinarily bleak mood. But it also offers an expansion of postapocalyptic detail (including the Recruiters, a militant, policelike organization that hunts and brutalizes as much as it tries to protect) and a few inspired surprises. Despite the books' similarities, readers are sure to be hooked, as this novel also retains Ryan's gripping storytelling style and engaging prose. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth) revisits the world of the Mudo (formerly known as the Unconsecrated) in this story of Gabry, the daughter of the first book's protagonist. Gabry and her mother Mary live in a lighthouse in the place now known as Vista. Mary's job is to kill those Mudo who wash ashore. When Gabry pursues Catcher, a boy she has known for years, into the forest, her action has devastating results, and soon she must decipher messages her mother has left for her and venture back into the terrifying forest. As Mary was before her, Gabry is torn between the love of two young men: Catcher and Elias, who shows up out of the cruel society of Seekers. The world of the first book is developed further here, with the Seekers being one of its more interesting manifestations. The clues left in a book of Shakespeare's sonnets come as an interesting surprise, as do several other plot turns, some involving Gabry's friend Cira, others related to Catcher's shifting role. It is difficult to believe that Gabry has not anticipated some of these possibilities, even as sheltered as she has been. But then this novel is not always about internal story logic or even about the prose, which tends at times to be overwrought. What drives it is the twisting plot, the pace, and the compelling, agonizingly detailed terrors of this world in which the undead are ever threatening and the safety of the living has been an illusion all along. A series of further surprises at the end lead Gabry to learn a truth about herself. The novel stands alone or can be read in tandem with the first book; judging by the ending there will be more to come. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
VOYA - Diane Colson
The best and worst night of Gabry's life starts with the promise of romance. Lured by the possibility of a kiss from her long-time crush, Catcher, Gabry goes against all better instincts and climbs over the Barrier that shelters her town. Outside the Barrier, Gabry and her friends enjoy a heady sense of freedom until they are attacked by a Mudo, a former human infected with a virus that transforms the person into a blood-ravenous, zombie-like monster. By the end of the evening, most of Gabry's friends have been arrested, two have been killed, and Catcher has been bitten, almost certainly infected with the Mudo virus. Readers of the companion novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Delacorte, 2009), will recognize this horrific world where people live in constant terror of the Mudos, or Unconsecrated. As in that other story, Gabry discovers that her "safe" life is built on lies. She also finds herself fleeing along the paths of the forest, torn between loving two very different men. Despite these parallels, the books have their own distinctive narrative and setting, which makes them very much like interlocking puzzle pieces. Readers can start with either book, but certainly fans of the first book will be delighted by the way Ryan weaves the stories together. Some fantastic coincidences help tie up loose ends from the companion piece. Judging by the way this book ends, readers can anticipate more adventures set in this ruined landscape. Recommend it to fans of apocalyptic fiction or zombie lore. Reviewer: Diane Colson
Barbara A. Ward
A barricade protects the citizens of Vista from the ever-shambling zombies yearning for human flesh. Mary lives in the lighthouse, watching for zombies who may wash ashore. When they do, she decapitates them. The barricade and Mary keep Vista safe from the zombies, also known as the Mudo or the Unconsecrated. When Gabrielle, Mary's daughter, crosses the Barrier to hang out with her friends one night, her actions have consequences for the entire village. In this companion novel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, readers learn more about what happened to its heroine, Mary, once she arrived in Vista. After the truth is revealed about Gabry's past, both women embark on separate journeys through the dangerous forestMary to find the truth about those she left behind, Gabry possibly to find her past and her future. The pages are filled with horror, beauty, and spiritual ruminations as the characters are tested constantly. Reviewer: Barbara A. Ward
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Timid, thoughtful Gabry has grown up safely in the city of Vista. She lives in a lighthouse with her mother, Mary, the daring heroine of The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Delacorte, 2009), whose job it is to kill Mudo—zombies—as they wash ashore. Then one night, Cira, Gabry's best friend, and Catcher, Cira's brother, convince her to sneak outside Vista's walls. With the attack of one Breaker—a fast zombie—everything changes: a friend is killed, Catcher is infected, and Cira is imprisoned and destined for the Recruiters, the army that protects the loose federation of cities left after the Return. Feeling both guilty for having escaped punishment and self-destructive after the revelation that Mary in fact adopted her, Gabry pushes herself to cross the city's Barrier again. Some pieces of the narrative are well constructed: the constant, looming threat of the Mudo, Gabry's quiet determination and daring in the face of fear, and villainous soldier Daniel's palpably frightening power-grabbing sexual advances. Other details are less believable, like Mary's suddenly abandoning her daughter and her duties to seek her past in the Forest. Though flawed, this volume has enough action, romance, and depth of character to satisfy, and the cliff-hanger ending will leave fans hungry for the third book.—Megan Honig, New York Public Library
Read an Excerpt
The story goes that even after the Return they tried to keep the roller coasters going. They said it reminded them of the before time. When they didn't have to worry about people rising from the dead, when they didn't have to build fences and walls andbarriers to protect themselves from the masses of Mudo constantly seeking human flesh. When the living weren't forever hunted.
They said it made them feel normal.
And so even while the Mudoneighbors and friends who'd been infected, died and Returnedpulled at the fences surrounding the amusement park, they kept the rides moving.
Even after the Forest was shut off, one last gasp at sequestering the infection and containing the Mudo, the carousel kept turning, the coasters kept rumbling, the teacups kept spinning. Though my town of Vista was far away from the core of the Protectorate, they hoped people would come fly along the coasters. Would still want to forget.
But then travel became too difficult. People were concerned with trying to survive and little could make them forget the reality of the world they lived in. The coasters slowly crumbled outside the old city perched at the tip of a long treacherous road along the coast. Everyone simply forgot about them, one other aspect of pre-Return life that gradually dimmed in the memories and stories passed down from year to year.
I never really thought about them until tonightwhen my best friend's older brother invites us to sneak past the Barriers and into the ruins of the amusement park with him and his friends.
"Come on, Gabry," Cira whines, dancing around me. I can almost feel the energy and excitement buzzing off her skin. We stand next to the Barrier that separates Vista from the ruins of the old city, the thick wooden wall keeping the dangers of the world out and us safely in. Already a few of the older kids have skimmed over the top, their feet a flash against the night sky. I rub my palms against my legs, my heart a thrum in my chest.
There are a thousand reasons why I don't want to go with them into the ruins, not the least of which is that it's forbidden. But there's one reason I do want to take the risk. I glance past Cira to her brother and his eyes catch mine. I can't stop the seep of heat crawling up my neck as I dart my gaze away, hoping he didn't notice me looking and at the same time desperately wishing he did.
"Gabry?" he asks, his head tilted to the side. From his lips my name curls around my ears. An invitation.
Afraid of the tangle of words twisting around my own tongue, I swallow and place my hand against the thick wood of the Barrier. I've never been past it before. It's against the rules to leave the town without permission and it's also risky. While mostof the ruins are bordered by old fences from after the Return, Mudo can still get through them. They can still attack us.
"We shouldn't," I say, more to myself than to Cira or Catcher. Cira just rolls her eyes; she's already jumping with desire to join the others. She grabs my arm with a barely repressed squeal.
"This is our chance," she whispers to me. I don't tell her what I've been thinkingthat it's our chance to get in trouble at best and I don't want to think about what could happen at worst.
But she knows me well enough to read my thoughts. "No one's been infected in years," she says, trying to convince me. "Catcher and them go out there all the time. It's totally safe."
Safea relative term. A word my mother always uses with a hard edge to her voice. "I don't know . . . ," I say, twisting my fingers together, wishing I could just say no and be done with it but hating to disappoint my best friend the way I've done too often before.