Friday, July 16, 2010

Vampires and Werewolves and... Zombies??? Oh. My.




Just so you know—I am not a horror flick chick. Chuckie’s face sends me cowering under a tower of twenty mattresses and Halloween previews terrorize me with nightmares for weeks. So when I heard The Forest of Hands and Teeth was a book about zombies, my immediate thought was

Zombies?

Zombies?

No. Way.

I mean, zombies aren’t as ghastly as poltergeists, but zombies? Seriously? Images of sixties B movies and Scooby Doo flooded my mind and undead bullying me in my nap-mares permeated my thoughts.

But I picked up the book regardless because

a) I was never a “vampire” girl either but I morphed into a hermit reading House of Night and Twilight

b) I met the author’s agent at a writer’s conference and of course, he and a flock of fans raaaaved about it

c) And well, the author’s brother is one of my friends.

Yeah—that last one had me hitting the book stores mucho quick.

And finally, just the other day, I dusted off the book cover and…

Holy powerful page-turners.

In The Forest of Hands and Teeth, YA author Carrie Ryan depicts a gripping tale of village life survival after an apocalypse. Written with simplistic elegance yet poignant from cover to cover, the story sucked me in from page one, the present-tense narration feeding the urgency of the heroine's (Mary's) daily plight. Here’s a little descripto of the book’s premise and why it “hooked” me.

Mary’s world is a tiny village established after The Return, an apocalyptic plague that wiped out civilization as we know it. Her village is not only bound by the tall fences surrounding it, but also by the ancient traditions of the Sisterhood and the Guardians who are sworn to protect the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. The forest of the Unconsecrated. Who with one bite infect the living and transform them into their ever-growing zombie horde. Fears of fence breaches by the Unconsecrated pervade the archaic community and as for villagers venturing beyond the gates—unthinkable.

But the fears and rules instilled by the Sisters play tug-of-war with Mary’s happiness. She hopes for love in a community where commitment and creating and sustaining human life takes precedence. She dreams of a future outside the fences. Dreams of an ocean. The ocean her mother told her about before she became one of them. And when unforeseen events occur, Mary is forced to make harsh choices. Between the one she loves and the one who loves her. Between a world that is familiar and the unknown she dreams of.


Yeah, the book’s got zombies, but this post-apocalyptic tale isn’t so much about Ryan’s Unconsecrated as it is about love and hope. Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope for a life beyond the village. Hope for an ocean that only exists in stories passed down by Mary’s ancestors. It’s an exquisitely written tale of the struggle between contentment and dreams and having faith in what you believe despite rigid society rules and naysayers who seek to diminish desires.


As a full-fledged pretentious drama queen, I fully believe that every book, every song, every movie—is about me. (Yes—horoscope manufacturers do take my paycheck) And of course, the same applies to Ryan’s novel. As a writer, hope fuels me, propels me forward on a daily basis. Ryan’s story gives me hope for my own writing. That I can push past the sea of Unconsecrated and strive for my own ocean.

And—get this. As beautiful and powerful a story and as superbly written Carrie Ryan’s tale is, her novel was discovered in the slush pile.

The slush pile.

In the publishing world, a slush pile is basically the toss off of unsolicited manuscripts, the rejects, the ones junior agents and assistants sift through hoping to find a “diamond in the rough”.

Ryan’s own tale to the top gives me renewed hope. That maybe my novels could be undiscovered wonders. And that my glimmering light at the end of my own tunnel is becoming more and more a vast, foreseeable ocean.

PS - the companion novel The Dead-Tossed Waves recently hit the stores. And my nightstand. Guess who's going to be a zombie for the next two days.

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