The Forest Of Hands And Teeth by Carrie RyanThe Forest Of Hands And Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest Of Hands And Teeth

byCarrie Ryan

Paperback | February 9, 2010

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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, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.
   Now, 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?

[STAR] "A bleak but gripping story...Poignant and powerful."-Publishers Weekly, Starred

"A postapocalyptic romance of the first order, elegantly written from title to last line."-Scott Westerfeld, author of the Uglies series and Leviathan

"Intelligent, dark, and bewitching, The Forest of Hands and Teeth transitions effortlessly between horror and beauty. Mary's world is one that readers will not soon forget."-Cassandra Clare, bestselling author of City of Bones

"Opening The Forest of Hands and Teeth is like cracking Pandora's box: a blur of darkness and a precious bit of hope pour out. This is a beautifully crafted, page-turning, powerful novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it."-Melissa Marr, bestselling author of Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange

"Dark and sexy and scary. Only one of the Unconsecrated could put this book down."-Justine Larbalestier, author of How to Ditch Your Fairy

From the Hardcover edition.
   CARRIE RYAN is the New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy that includes The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead-Tossed Waves, The Dark and Hollow Places, and the original ebook Hare Moon. She has edited the short story anthology Foretold: 14 Stories of Prophecy and Prediction and contributed to ma...
Title:The Forest Of Hands And TeethFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.69 inPublished:February 9, 2010Publisher:Random House Children's BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385736827

ISBN - 13:9780385736824

Appropriate for ages: 13 - 17


Rated 4 out of 5 by from Promising! I love when zombie books are realistic. Your friends will die. Your loved ones will die and this book brings the reality of that to the pages
Date published: 2018-04-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Spoilers and ranting ahead Let me summarize the plot of the first sixty pages of the book, just to explain how I don't know what the author was going for, and don't think she even knows what she was going for. The heroine, Mary, already lost her father to the Unconsecrated, essentially zombies that wander outside the fenced-in area of her village. The Sisters are a group of strict nuns inhabiting the town cathedral, and the Guardians are the police/hunters who keep the village safe and kill the Unconsecrated. First two chapters, within a span of less than 20 pages: Mary's mother gets bitten by one of the zombies and chooses to become one herself, so as to join her already zombie-fied husband. Mary blames herself because she wasn't there to stop her mother. Her brother, Jed, also blames her, and after Mary watches her mother turn into a zombie and conclude, as a result, that she no longer believes in God, Jed decides to throw her out and force her to join the Sisters, because it turns out that no one wants her. Next thing we know, she's nursing Travis, the guy she's in love with but who she thinks is engaged to her best friend, Cass. It's a whirlwind of her not being allowed to love him because she's forced to become a nun, and yet she doesn't believe in God, and then it seems as if he loves her too, but it's never certain, and the cruelty of the Sisters and her brother Jed is always lingering in the background, things are uncertain, including the time period this is in, and there are zombies everywhere. The main character is indecisive, down-putting, and masochistic. She has no personality and even less motivation to act. The time period, again, is unclear. A lot of plot points feel like they're missing--the action is just too abrupt and sudden. Most authors would flesh it out a little, but just two chapters in and we've already got the main character's mother turned into a zombie. Bloody brilliant. *sarcasm* Anyways, I have no idea what the author was going for, so I lost interest at 58 pages precisely. Enough of this bullshit--moving on. (Partial credit for an okay writing style, though.)
Date published: 2018-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it I love this book. Highly recommend it
Date published: 2017-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favs Have re-read a couple of times and its still so good. Simple concept, likable characters and a haunting landscape.
Date published: 2017-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved It! This book has a memorable plot that will stay with you for a very long time. It also features some awesome heart wrenching scenes.
Date published: 2017-08-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Enjoyable Carrie Ryan writes a dark and fascinating tale. This story is full of anger, impossible dreams and sorrow. This is a book that will be remembered.#PlumReview
Date published: 2017-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So good!! This book surprised me very much. From the synopsis on the back of the book you cannot tell that this is actually a Zombie Apocalypse novel. In fact, the word Zombie is never used in the novel - the living dead are, instead, called the Unconsecrated. That being said it was a very, very good zombie book. Carrie Ryan writes beautifully and has constructed a dark and depressing world with very hopefull characters. I definitely enjoyed this book enough to seek out the companion novel called The Dead Tossed Waves
Date published: 2017-02-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A good start to an intriguing series The Forest of Hands and Teeth isn’t your typical post-apocalypstic zombie book, and for that, I greatly applaud it. The author made some brave choices along the way, choosing to give her audience a dose of the horrific every now and then, when necessary for the story. I’m looking forward to reading the next part in this series.
Date published: 2017-02-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Refreshing Take on another zombie world This was an intense read. This world is described beautifully and really sets the tone and how these people are living. I found the main character struggles to be a bit dragged out, but also seeing what world she is lived in and the struggle she's faced at every turn I can see how there really isn't time for her to really process them, so alas the dramatics. I did find that,I needed to know what was beyond the walls. For this being a gift, I really was nicely surprised and am eager to read the others in this series to get back into the world again.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from More of a prequel to the rest of the series, but still worth reading! While I admittedly didn't enjoy this book as much as I would've liked, I definitely still think it's worth reading because it provides a great backstory and prequel to the other two books in the series (The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places) which are both AMAZING. In The Forest of Hands and Teeth, none of the characters really stood out to me. Mary was just... I don't know, I realize everything happening to her is very dramatic, but I felt almost as trapped as she was in her village while I was reading this. Stuff just seemed to happen in circles, and I didn't care about the love story between her and main guy and her brother and her friend... I JUST WANTED THEM TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH ABOUT WHAT LAY BEYOND THEIR VILLAGE... but most of it seemed to revolve around this love drama. All of the secrets of the Sisterhood and what really happened during the Return seemed glazed over compared to relationship stuff. I would've liked more of a balance, or at least just more about how the world went to shit after the zombies rose. Speaking about their village, this book really reminded me of The Village (the movie with Adrien Brody, which I'm pretty sure I felt the first time around), and I guess in that respect the mystery aspect surrounding what was out in the forest/beyond their village's fences kept me going ... but meh. Knowing what I know about books 2 and 3 (which again I enjoyed much much more, and which had far more likeable and interesting characters), TFoHaT almost feels more like a prequel to the ~real~ story which are blah blah spoiler the twins in TDTW and TDaHP. As far as creepy post-zombie apocalyptic thrillers go, this book provides enough of a fix... and it's worth reading only to get the back story of the other books' protagonists
Date published: 2016-12-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazingly descriptive. I read this a while ago, and though I don't remember all of it, I do remember one thing. It was amazing. Zombies, romance, tragedy, it was the perfect amount of gritty and nice. A little more on the grungy side, but I liked it that way. The words flowed together flawlessly, and though the ending put me a little off, I'm sure it'll make more sense when I read the second in the series. First, though, I must read this book again because it was so much fun to read.
Date published: 2014-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is an excellent book, i couldn't put it down! This was my first in this genre and I didn't expect to enjoy it. Went on to read the follow up books and they have left me wanting more!
Date published: 2014-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If you love the movie "The Village" and you also like zombies, this book is for you. A fantastic young adult dystopian novel about life after the zombocalypse, Carrie Ryan's novel is gripping, moving, and leaves you wanting more. I read this in a day, I just couldn't put it down!
Date published: 2014-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I loved this book I couldn't put it down I was so intrigued to find out more about this world that the author had created. I can't wait to read more in this series.
Date published: 2014-01-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not bad Continuously gripping and heartbreaking as you kept reading, but left many things and background snippets unexplained.
Date published: 2013-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intriguing new look at Zombies! This series is a unique look at an apocalyptic future that brings zombie (unconsecrated) and teens into a world of page-turning suspense and heroism.
Date published: 2013-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Forest of Hands and Teeth Very fast read. Book captured me and made me want to read more and more. Great mystery, zombie story.
Date published: 2013-03-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good zombie read This one took a while for me to get into it. This was the first zombie book I have read so I really didn’t know what to expect. I liked the world that Carrie has created after the “Return” (post apocalypse America). I really liked Mary’s character because she wasn’t driven to make the decisions she made because of some boy. She made her decisions based on her dream to see the ocean. This was the most refreshing concept ever! It was nice not to read about a doe eyed girl. There is still some romance in the series but it doesn’t drive the main characters decisions – yes it does have some impact but it isn’t the main reason. Also, my name was in the book that always makes me happy J I’m a dork like that. (Thanks Carrie for using Cassandra – even though I’m sure you didn’t name the character after me. I shall pretend you did ;) ) The book is filled with sadness and death but it fits in the story so well. I can’t wait to read the companion novel The Dead-Tossed Waves and see where Carrie takes her world. She left The Forest of Hands and Teeth so open that there are so many ways Carrie can go with the story.
Date published: 2012-02-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Different Kind of Zombie Book 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.
Date published: 2011-09-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Wasn't too bad I felt like the romance aspect could've been written a bit better, I didn't feel that it was very romantic at all, if that was what the author was aiming for. The way it was described on the back as the character having to choose between two guys wasn't as I had expected it to be... Other than that, the story line was pretty interesting.
Date published: 2011-06-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I liked it, but... Three stars means I liked it. Which I did. I loved that Mary was not a perfect character. In many cases, I was yelling at the book for her to come to her senses. I also loved that she was confused about Travis, and said that she wasn't even sure what they had was love. It was refreshing in the YA genre to see that, where you usually hear "I would do anything for him, even though I've only liked him for a week." I also loved the ending, with the exception of a certain character's sudden and seemingly rushed demise. That being said, I just couldn't get absorbed in the book. When someone died, I didn't cry, or get very upset by it. For me, it wasn't a book that I couldn't put down. THAT being said, I did think it was good enough for me to buy the next two books in the series, and I did enjoy the book. I would recommend it, because I think it is a good series with great character development. Here are some books you would love if you are interested in this series:
Date published: 2011-05-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A zombie romance... I discovered this book on a few booklists that I have seen with people's favourite apocalyptic novels. Figuring that a zombie invasion story cannot be too bad I decided to pick it up. Truth is ... it IS pretty good and it should have received 4 stars normally but it is hampered (at least in my opinion) by this undercurrent of gushy romantic stuff strewn throughout the novel. I'm not into romance - Ann Rice is about as far as I am willing to go in this direction - but this book made me squirm at times. Zombies and unrequited love are odd partners in a story. The zombie part was excellent and very suspenseful but the rest - the gushy part - tiring and repetitive. I guess there are readers who like both but I like to keep my horror straight with no mix. Decent read otherwise.
Date published: 2010-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Novel I've Read This Year! The beginning of the book explains to us that the society in which Mary lives is just what remains of the human race, or so they are told, while they trudge along through their new lives within the chain link walls of their village. Whether the fences were to keep the Unconsecrated out or the living in we no longer know. But the end result was our village, an enclave of hundreds of survivors in the middle of a vast Forest of Unconsecrated. It's a post-apocalyptic setting in which the fence keeps the Unconsecrated (zombies) at bay. Mary tells a haunting story of watching her mother become infected and choose to tossed into the Forest of Hands and Teeth to be with her husband who is out there somewhere. It is a story of loss, despair and the unknown. Through Mary we begin to have hope that there is something more out in the world than just the forest filled with zombies. She has lived with the knowledge that her great-great-great-great grandmother had seen the oceans. She has this yearning to see it for herself and feels that if she can find it she will be free from zombies and life will be better. She is the only one who asks questions about life before the Return. It's almost as if the other villagers just want to forget what it was like before this horrible event came upon them all - like it is easier to forget then to remember their loss. Nothing seems to fulfill Mary's quest for what is out there, except to go and find it for herself. Amid the chaos of a breach in the wall, Mary finds herself tossed out into a path that they have always been told no one knows where it leads. No one remembers where the paths go. Some say they are there as escape routes, others say they are there so that we can travel deep into the Forest for wood. We only know that one points to the rising sun and the other to the setting sun. I am sure our ancestors knew where the paths led, but just like everything else about the world before the Return, that knowledge has been lost. She is not alone; Harry and Travis (her two love interests), Cass (her best friend), Jed and Beth (her brother and his wife) along with a little boy named Jacob and a dog named Argos. This group travels along the path together using Mary's guidance as she is the only one with a yearning to move forward looking for others like themselves. Anymore info and I feel I will be giving away some spoilers... so you must read the book to find out what else happens. This story is actually filled with adventure, love, friendship, loss and terror. To see the relationships build and crumble, the love that they all have for one another be tested again and again, and to see the choices they each make along the way when put in situations like holding ones life in their hands. And I wonder if there was ever a crueler world than this one that forces us to kill the people we love most. I cannot even begin to imagine what any of them were feeling. Also, the scenes with the zombies are amazingly well written and had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I was cheering for Mary and her friends, but also wanting to read about how the zombies react to different situations. To be honest I cried during this one scene I was reading and had to put the book down. My boyfriend kind of teased me about my tears until I explained what was happening right then in the book and then he said it sounded like it would make a good zombie love story movie (good for both guys and girls). I laughed in agreement and immediately looked up to see if the rights had been bought to turn it into a movie. Lo and behold someone has the rights, now to wait and see if it gets turned into a movie. I think it would be an amazingly haunting movie to watch. I highly recommend this book - I will be going out to purchase a copy to keep and also am looking forward to reading the rest of this series.
Date published: 2010-11-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Chilling To The Bone!!! This is the first zombie book I’ve read so far and surprisingly it was a good read! I grew addicted to the main character Mary and her dreams of finding life outside the walls of her fenced-in, small village. She never let go of her mother’s stories of the outside world, the ocean and really tall buildings, beyond the forest. The sisterhood and her closest friends and relatives try to convince her to forget about it since what lies beyond the fence as they know, is a forest with tons and tons of zombies. As children they were lead to believe that they are the last of the living, but are they really? I wanted to know where her jouney of hope and faith would lead her. One day, Mary gets to put her dreams to the test and find out if what she grew up believing may really be true…
Date published: 2010-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprisingly addicting From the first chapter I was hooked into the author’s world of zombies always around a town that felt like my own; the haunting noise of the “unconsecrated” always around you no matter where you are. The author did a fantastic job of making the setting something you have known your whole life and I believe that is partly why I couldn’t put this book down. I am actually wishing the author plans to write a prequel as not many authors do about the first days the “unconsecrated” began appearing in the world. I highly recommend this book to anyone if they want a change from the vampires and wizards realm. I will admit when I first bought this book I didn’t know what to expect but was greatly surprised by the fast pace and mystery along with the action that came in this book. After reading this book I found a need to read more zombie books…
Date published: 2010-09-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Potential... I found I enjoyed this story until halfway through... to me the character development ceased and the detail seems to fade. I read the book within a day, so not to forget or miss any part of the book, but I felt as though the style of description changed a little too much for my taste. I did enjoy the book, but I found the end to be weak although the idea was refreshing with zombies rather than the stereo typical fanged freaks.
Date published: 2010-09-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan Blog for Book Reviews.
Date published: 2010-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Zombies under your skin This is a refreshing book to get you away from the world of vampires and into a world of zombies. What I absolutely loved about this book is the main character; she has so much determination in her, so many beliefs that goes against the sisterhood - against the society she lives in. She is forced to believe that her village is all that's left of the world but stories of her mother reminds her that there is the ocean - a world different from hers. The story unfolds bit by bit, layer by layer. First with her mom, then her stay with the sisterhood, then her flee from the village, her discover of another village and her final voyage. What's amazing about this book is the reality behind it. Every chapter is real and gruesome - you can feel it under your skin. You feel her desperation for the ocean, her confusion with the brothers, and the agony of the only thing separating her from being infected are fences. It's a really good book. I loved the writing, the characters and just reading it.
Date published: 2010-07-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Forest of Hands and Teeth A love story set in a post-apocalyptic Earth. That just screams awesomeness. This book was very unique and original. It was also very dark, dark and captivating. I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2010-05-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A bit disappointing Overall it was an okay book, i just felt it was lacking in some areas. Firstly, the character's arent particularly well developed. You dont even really get a full explanation of how the characters look, only a few minimal details. Secondly, i found the main character of Mary really irritating with her jumbled decisions and thoughts. I also found that there were many disappointing deaths. It's not a bad read and i think i will pick up the next book once it comes out in paperback. Overall, It just wasnt as good as i expected.
Date published: 2010-05-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not Very Good Like many others, I didn't know anything about this book before I bought it and I was disappointed as soon as I got past the first chapter. The characters were lacking personality, and although Mary may seem like she's tough on the inside she rarely says anything productive out loud. There's lots of frantic "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES" parts, but very little plot. I was hoping for something a with a little more feeling.
Date published: 2010-04-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Forest of... Beware of possible spoilers. Okay, so it does remind me of a certain movie starring a certain Joaquin Phoenix. After reading the back of the book I expected something a lot different that what it was about. To be perfectly honest...I ended up buying this book because I thought is was going to be a fantasy type plot and it was recommended by Cassandra Clare (Author of The Mortal Instrument Series). However, it wasn't. I never really liked Zombies. Though I have read a few books with the nasty creatures playing a role. The Unconsecrated are, basically, Zombies. The main character made me frustrated. She is trying to decide between love and what's expected, but the struggle is annoying. And then all of a sudden, everyone is passing away because of ... I don't want to give away the plot that much. It did make me scared at parts, but it left me not up to feeling anything else. The ending, even if it's part of a series, just left you hanging and wanting more settled. It wasn't bad. But I didn't love it. Though if you did like this, or think you will, try my recommendation.
Date published: 2010-04-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from disappointment this book was said to be really good, but i felt the plot was a major let down. I wouldn't read the second book, and i really had to force myself to read it. The characters were quite flat. But, nontheless an ok meaningless read.
Date published: 2010-03-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good plot not a lot of emotion I loved this plot it was so unique and different. This story shows how everything is connected. This is a love story and there are some sad parts but I didn't really find my self really falling for the characters or feeling their emotion which is why this book only gets a 3. If your looking for a unique book this is for you. If your looking for a tear-jerking romance you should move on.
Date published: 2010-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Watch out! Here come the Zombies! Theirs is the only village left in the world. They are the only people left in the world. Beyond them, there is only trees, forest, and the Unconsecrated. That's what Mary and everyone in her village has been brought up believing. Day after day, they pass by the living dead, moaning and swiping at them with broken limbs and unseeing eyes, pushing at the chain-link fence that holds them back. Before the Return, before all the Unconsecrated took up and started craving human flesh, there was a world just like ours. With buildings and airplanes and water that had salt in it and stretched out as far as you could see. Mary's mother always told her that, and she's been wanting to see the ocean, to taste the tang of the salt and feel the waves, since she was a little girl. Now, a teenager, Mary is betrothed to a boy she does not love, his own brother the one she desires. And when a breach in the fence lets the Unconsecrated swarm in, Mary and all her friends and family are cornered. The only way out is the small gate they were warned never to go through... I read this novel with the type of fervor and excitement that makes you slip the book out whenever you can-when you're eating, when you're supposed to be doing something else, up into the late hours of the night, all that stuff. The characters were real and true and I cared about them a great deal. I loved the feel of this book-how it was set in the future, but had a past, historic feel to it. This wasn't one of those books I will easily forget about, and the doubts and fears and feelings Mary has are relatable to the here and now-having dreams no one else understands, or seems to care about. Wanting more than what you have, knowing you can go farther than where you are. If you want a deep, heart-breaking, lovely read, pick up this book. Bets are, you won't put it down until you finish the last page.
Date published: 2009-11-17

Read from the Book

My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away. She once showed me a picture that she said was my great-great-great-grandmother standing in the ocean as a child. It has been years since, and the picture was lost to fire long ago, but I remember it, faded and worn. A little girl surrounded by nothingness.In my mother's stories, passed down from her many-greats-grandmother, the ocean sounded like the wind through the trees and men used to ride the water. Once, when I was older and our village was suffering through a drought, I asked my mother why, if so much water existed, were there years when our own streams ran almost dry? She told me that the ocean was not for drinking--that the water was filled with salt.That is when I stopped believing her about the ocean. How could there be so much salt in the universe and how could God allow so much water to become useless?But there are times when I stand at the edge of the Forest of Hands and Teeth and look out at the wilderness that stretches on forever and wonder what it would be like if it were all water. I close my eyes and listen to the wind in the trees and imagine a world of nothing but water closing over my head.It would be a world without the Unconsecrated, a world without the Forest of Hands and Teeth.Often, my mother stands next to me holding her hand up over her eyes to block the sun and looking out past the fences and into the trees and brush, waiting to see if her husband will come home to her.She is the only one who believes that he has not turned--that he might come home the same man he was when he left. I gave up on my father months ago and buried the pain of losing him as deeply as possible so that I could continue with my daily life. Now I sometimes fear coming to the edge of the Forest and looking past the fence. I am afraid I will see him there with the others: tattered clothes, sagging skin, the horrible pleading moan and the fingers scraped raw from pulling at the metal fences.That no one has seen him gives my mother hope. At night she prays to God that he has found some sort of enclave similar to our village. That somewhere in the dense Forest he has found safety. But no one else has any hope. The Sisters tell us that ours is the only village left in the world.My brother Jed has taken to volunteering extra shifts for the Guardian patrols that monitor the fence line. I know that, like me, he thinks our father is lost to the Unconsecrated and that he hopes to find him during the patrol of the perimeter and kill him before our mother sees what her husband has become.People in our village have gone mad from seeing their loved ones as Unconsecrated. It was a woman--a mother--horrified at the sight of her son infected during a patrol, who set herself on fire and burned half of our town. That was the fire that destroyed my family's heirlooms when I was a child, that obliterated our only ties to who we were as a people before the Return, though most were so corroded by then that they left only wisps of memories.Jed and I watch our mother closely now and we never allow her to approach the fence line unaccompanied. At times  Jed's wife Beth used to join us on these vigils until she was sent to bed rest with her first child. Now it is just us.And then one day Beth's brother catches up with me while I am dunking our laundry in the stream that branches off the big river. For as long as I can remember Harold has been a friend of mine, one of the few in the village my age. He trades me a handful of wildflowers for my sopping sheets and we sit and watch the water flow over the rocks as he twists the sheets in complicated patterns to dry them out."How is your mother?" he asks me, because he is nothing if not polite.I duck my head and wash my hands in the water. I know I should be getting back to her, that I have already taken too much time for myself today and that she is probably pacing, waiting for me. Jed is off on a long-term patrol of the perimeter, checking the strength of the fences, and my mother likes to spend her afternoons near the Forest looking for my father. I need to be there to comfort her just in case. To hold her back from the fences if she finds him. "She's still holding out hope," I say.Harry clucks his tongue in sympathy. We both know there is little hope.His hands seek out and cover mine under the water. I have known this was coming for months. I have seen the way he looks at me now, how his eyes have changed. How tension has crept into our friendship. We are no longer children and haven't been for years."Mary, I_._._." He pauses for a second. "I was hoping that you would go with me to the Harvest Celebration next weekend."I look down at our hands in the water. I can feel my fingertips wrinkling in the cold and his skin feels soft and fleshy. I consider his offer. The Harvest Celebration is the time in the fall when those of marrying age declare themselves to one another. It is the beginning of the courtship, the time during the short winter days when the couple determines whether they will make a suitable match. Almost always the courtship will end in spring with Brethlaw--the weeklong celebration of wedding vows and christenings. It's very rare that a courtship fails. Marriage in our village is not about love--it is about commitment.Every year I wonder at the couples pairing up around me. At how my former childhood friends suddenly find partners, bond, prepare for the next step. Pledge themselves to one another and begin their courtships. I always assumed the same would happen to me when my time approached. That because of the sickness that wiped out so many of my peers when I was a child, it would be even more important that those of us of marrying age find a mate. So important that there wouldn't be enough girls to spare for a life with the Sisterhood.I even hoped that perhaps I would be lucky enough to find more than just a mate, to eventually find love like my mother and father.And yet, even though I have been one of the few eligible during the past two years, I've been left aside.I have spent the last weeks dealing with my father's absence beyond the fences. Dealing with my mother's despair and desolation. With my own grief and mourning. Until this moment it hasn't occurred to me that I might be the last one asked to the Harvest Celebration. Or that I might be left unclaimed.From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, February 2, 2009:“Mary's observant, careful narration pulls readers into a bleak but gripping story of survival and the endless capacity of humanity to persevere . . .Fresh and riveting.”Starred review, School Library Journal, May 2009:"[T]he suspense that Ryan has created from the very first page on entices and tempts readers so that putting the book down is not an option."From the Hardcover edition.