Just finished reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, the first honest-to-goodness YA zombie apocalypse novel I've ever heard of. There are some other zombie YA books like You Are So Undead To Me, which I've not read. They seem to be more on the comic end of the spectrum. Zombies can be pretty funny, after all.
Seeing as I really, really love zombie flicks, I had to check this out right away. Apparently, it just got optioned as a movie (like The Hunger Games) and may be out as soon as 2011. I'm not sure what's up with this sudden flood of turning YA books into movies. I guess Twilight was a cash cow and everyone's looking for the next thing that way.
What's not going to make either or these two books easy to turn into movies is that I just don't know how they're going to get a PG-13 rating. And with an R, they're effectively restricting the target audiences of the books. So... We'll see. Both books are visceral and have some pretty gory violence. I wouldn't want this toned down, per se, but it is true that a book leaves the imagery up to your imagination. That can sometimes be way scarier, but violence on screen can be pretty horrific too...
Okay...on to The Forest of Hands and Teeth. So, the story is this. The zombie outbreak happened generations ago. So long ago that all Mary has ever known is the small village in the woods, surrounded by a chainlink fence where the Unconsecrated (undead, flesh-eating zombies!!) wander, moaning and pawing at the fence constantly. (Seriously. They "moan and paw" every time we see them. Now, I think it's a sin to over-thesaurus your writing to death, but like once in a while it might have been good if the zombies whined or screeched.) Mary life like totally sucks. She's in love with Travis, but his big brother Harry is in love with her. Likewise, Travis is courting her best friend Cass. On top of that, her brother hates her and she has to go live with the Sisterhood, a group of creepy nun-like totalitarian rulers, who keep secrets like not telling everyone there's a fenced in path out of the village to God knows where (Mary hopes it's the ocean, which she's heard stories of, but everybody else tells her that the ocean is a myth). And then Mary finds out someone's come in from the outside. But the Sisters don't tell anyone. And the outsider disappears. It goes downhill from there.
With every page I turned in this novel, things got worse and worse. Lots of people died, even people I really liked. There are a thousand things that don't make sense. How did people build this elaborate system of fences while the zombies were attacking them? What does the Sisterhood know about the zombies that they aren't telling? Why is one of the zombies faster than all of the others?
Luckily, there's a sequel, which will hopefully help clear some of this mess up. If there weren't a sequel, I would be extremely mad at this book. Sure, most zombie stories are real downers. After all, society's been destroyed by legions of hungry undead. But this book is really, really, really depressing.
Everything gets worse on every page, but I couldn't stop reading it. It was very compelling and quite fast-paced. There's also a kind of miserable elegance to the book. I really did feel a gut-wrenching sense of despair pretty much the entire time. I'd hoped that Mary would be able to overcome that despair and find some peace. In the end, she kind of does, but it's also hollow, because it's come with such a high price tag.
I'd definitely recommend this book. It's different than any YA book I've read. Certainly, I'd put it in the same vein as The Hunger Games, but it's on a different level in terms of intensity.