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Literature / The Forest of Hands and Teeth

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In Mary's world, there are simple truths. 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.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a 2009 YA, post-apocalypse novel by Carrie Ryan. It has two sequels The Dead-Tossed Waves (2010) and The Dark and Hollow Places (2011).



  • After the End: Set generations after a zombie apocalypse.
  • Arc Words: Mary's mother's story about the ocean. She sees the ocean at the very end of the book.
  • Arrowgram: Two sets of characters live in treehouses for a brief period of time, unable to go to the ground or hear each other over the din of the zombies. The only means of communication is by arrow and letter (and given one of the communicating character's poor aim, this isn't so easy).
  • Betty and Veronica: The one Mary is betrothed to and his brother.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: Well not magic, but people are Infected by the Unconsecrated and the Guardians protect them.
  • City in a Bottle / The Wall Around the World: The fence protects them from the Unconsecrated. It breaks. And later on, they find another similar village.
  • Corrupt Church: The Sisterhood.
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  • Days of Future Past: Sort of, the society is more like that of medieval Europe.
  • Elite Zombie: The bright red vest. That is all.
  • Future Imperfect: Mary finds a book of Shakespeare's sonnets and has no idea what they are, and sees Roman numerals on the path and can't understand them.
  • Locked Away in a Monastery: Mary is sent to live with the Sisterhood after her mother is Infected. When Mary says that she didn't have a choice (after her mother's un-death, her brother kicked her out and she wasn't getting married) of whether or not to stay with them, the head nun, Sister Tabitha threatens to turn Mary out into the Forest to show her that "There is always a choice."
  • Mercy Kill: Jed, towards Beth. what's worse, she was pregnant. Again. Also, Mary towards Travis.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: In Mary's village, zombies are called Unconsecrated. In Vista, they're called Mudo.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They are basically the classic B-Movie zombies, only they spread via virus.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: Implied. It's said repeatedly that the zombies will keep shambling until they're torn apart, but when decapitated or given a hard enough blow to the head, they "redie".
  • These Hands Have Killed / It's All My Fault: Mary continually blames herself throughout the story for her mother's death, Gabrielle being infected at the hands of the Sisterhood and Jed's implied death. Also, Jacob begging forgiveness for starting the fire that forced our protagonists to leave the treetop village months early which he thought was the reason for Travis' death. It wasn't.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never explained why Gabrielle, the girl in the red vest, is so much stronger and faster than other zombies. The author hints that something special was done to make her that way, but it's just kind of forgotten about after that.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: le duh.
  • Zombie Gait: A major plot point is that the Sisterhood created an Unconsecrated that didn't walk slowly. this is pretty much the entire reason the fences were breached and the village was lost.
  • Zombie Infectee: Mary's mother in the beginning. Later, Beth and Travis.