Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth was one of my favorite reads last year. TFOHAT is about a love triangle set in a zombie-driven post-apocalypse world. It's a book that literally made me gasp with surprise, and kept me up late reading, concerned for protagonist Mary. Naturally, when the sequel/companion novel, The Dead-Tossed Waves, landed in my mailbox last week, I dove into it immediately.
The Dead-Tossed Waves takes place some years following the events of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and features Mary's teenage daughter, Gabry. Mary is the lighthouse-keeper in the town of Vista, where she washed up at the end of the previous book. Gabry has spend her childhood safe inside Vista's walls, her only contact with the "Mudo" (zombies) the sluggish bodies that wash up on the beach. That all changes one night, however, when her friends convince her to leave the safety of Vista's barriers on an ill-advised jaunt. An encounter with a far-from-sluggish zombie changes Gabry's safe life forever. She eventually finds herself following in Mary's footsteps, both literally and figuratively, fighting her way through the Forest of Hands and Teeth, while struggling with her growing feelings for two very different boys.
Carrie Ryan's writing is beautiful - lyrical and occasionally profound, without sacrificing pace. Reading The Dead-Tossed Waves, I found myself stopping frequently to flag passages, but also reading quickly because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Here's an example, in which Ryan draws on multiple senses, and makes Gabry's world three-dimensional:
"He stares at me a moment and then shrugs before walking away. Every sound becomes amplified: the sound of his footsteps facing, the groan of buildings settling from the heat of the day. Cicadas buzzing, rising and falling. My mouth tastes bitter, my throat raw from screaming for help earlier on the beach. The ocean salt has dried, making my skin itch and clothes chafe under my arms." (Page 97)
To be sure, The Dead-Tossed Waves is a bleak story. Ryan's zombie-overrun post-apocalypse world has the non-infected people barely hanging on, without much hope of any kind of a normal life. There's not much levity, and not many quiet moments. However, Ryan laces the book with passages about love and longing, and those passages provide balance. For example:
"In that moment I wonder if we can melt into each other in the blackness. There's nothing distinct about our bodies, nothing keeping us apart except the thick heat of summer rising from the ground below.
It feels boundless, the walls keeping my frame in place now gone, my world exploded, leaving me struggling to catch my breath, as if there's not enough air here beyond the town." (Page 8)
I like Gabry. She's insecure and afraid (understandable in her situation), but neither selfish nor self-pitying. Here's an early passage that gives an idea what Gabry is like.
"I don't want to face this. I don't want to handle this. It's too much and I need for it all to stop. I need to catch my breath and figure out what to do.
But the earth keeps spinning, the waves keep crashing, the lamp in the lighthouse keeps turning. Nothing stops just because I feel as though it should. Just because I'm lost." (Page 71)
I also enjoyed finding out what happened to Mary after The Forest of Hands and Teeth, of course. Certain things left unresolved in the previous book are resolved here (though other threads are left open, to presumably be explained in the next book). Fans of The Forest of Hands and Teeth will definitely want to scoop up The Dead-Tossed Waves as quickly as they can. Personally, I found the two books a tiny bit TOO similar. Like Charlotte, I would have liked to see a bit more about the bigger picture and society as a whole. There are hints about the construction of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and how Mary's original village ended up there - I would have enjoyed a bit more background. Still, that didn't keep me from staying up late at night to finish the book. And it certainly won't keep me from reading Book 3 the moment it arrives. Highly recommended for post-apocalypse fans. (But do read The Forest of Hands and Teeth first.)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: March 9, 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Charlotte's Library (with links to three other reviews). I first heard about this book from Karen at Teenage Fiction for All Ages (a description, not a review).
© 2010 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).