Zombies have been appearing in popular culture for almost 200 years, ever since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Because if you think about it, Frankenstein’s monster was a total zombie, brought back to life and left to feed on Frankenstein’s brains.
Okay, well maybe it wasn’t quite like that. But Shelley was on to something when she wrote that. Despite the crappy reviews her book got, it was wildly popular at the time. I’m sure if she were alive today she’d be proud that the zombie tradition is going strong in literature, a sub-genre of horror that has even begun to surpass the popular vampire novel.
I finally read my first zombie book a few months ago, Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I actually checked it out not even knowing that it was a zombie book. I had heard good things about it, and decided to get it from the library.
Little did I know that this book would end up scaring the bejeezus out of me.
Scary Detail #1: The book takes place in a post-apocalyptic town that has been destroyed by The Return, aka the Zombie Apocalypse that began decades earlier.
Scary Detail #2: The town is surrounded by a large forest, aka The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which is bordered by a fence. Which means that hands and teeth will get you if you enter.
Scary Detail #3: The people infected by the zombie disease, aka bitten by a freaking dead person, are called The Unconsecrated.
Scary Detail #4: If an infected person is alone when they turn, they will become a faster, stronger, and more deadly type of Unconsecrated, aka the kind you pray you don’t meet.
Scary Detail #5: The town is run by a group of women called The Sisterhood, aka evil nuns who tell people that the forest goes on and on and no one lives beyond the fence. Of course these evil nuns are LYING.
Scary Detail #6: The Unconsecrated don’t decay. They simply start to pull themselves apart.
I was totally addicted to this book. Not since The Hunger Games had I been so glued to a book. It takes a lot to scare me, and this book definitely managed to do just that. Just the thought of hearing the moans from the Unconsecrated as they hunger for people, of imagining them repeatedly slamming their torn bodies against the fence as they try to get out…it gives me chills. And not the good kind of chills. It made me consider buying one of these:
And of course I wanted to keep reading because I had to know what happens to Mary, the main heroine of the story. She knows there’s something more beyond the fence besides The Unconsecrated. She remembers the stories her mother would tell her, the stories passed down from generations of how life used to be…that somewhere in this world there was civilization…that there were buildings and cities and amusement parks…that somewhere nearby there was an ocean. Will Mary be able to escape The Sisterhood? Will she get through the fences without being infected? Will she find that ocean that everyone else refuses to believe in?
As I wrote in a previous post, this is what makes dystopian books like this so addicting. The world they live in is so awful that there has to be a way out of it. So you end up reading it in one sitting, the outcome usually being taking another trip to the library because the book ends with a cliffhanger, as was the case in The Forest of Hands and Teeth.
Okay, well, even if there is a picture of a girl lying on the shores of an ocean on the cover, I’m not going to tell you if she makes it to that ocean. You’ll have to read these books to find out. I will tell you, however, that the second book wasn’t as scary as the first. Maybe because the shock of the whole “oh my God they’re gonna eat my brains” thing had worn off. It was a good read, though, so once again, I recommend.
There is a third book in the series called The Dark and Hollow Places, which I actually just checked out from the library today. So as soon as I finish the book I’m reading now – another dystopian young adult book called Delirium – I’ll crawl into that dark and hollow place and let you know what I think. In the meantime, keep your eyes and ears sharp. Because you never know when a dead person will sneak up on you and have you for second breakfast.
Happy reading (and running)!