Carrie Ryan‘s young adult novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth is perhaps one of the most extraordinary works I’ve read all year. This horror novel is remarkably literate and astonishingly well-paced. Somehow Ryan manages to balance an unusual setting and circumstance – an isolated village – with conflicted relationships – Mary, betrothed to Harry, loves Travis his brother while Cass, Mary’s best friend, betrothed to Travis is keen on Harry (sounds straightforward, but really it’s not and it really adds an enormous level of tension to the book). And, though it’s amazingly well done, it’s a zombie novel, even if the word “zombie” is never used in the text. Actually, the unconsecrated, as they are known, provide a somewhat evil backdrop to the controlling religious order which governs life in the village. Be prepared – the novel is harrowing and intense and a great character and relationship study.
Cool – in checking out Carrie Ryan’s details, I’ve discovered there is a sequel, and a third book coming. Ryan’s also got some stories in anthologies which seem to be set in the same milieu (okay, actually, I think I’d like to see some of her writing set outside that – she’s such a precise and crafty wordsmith that it would be good to see what she’d do with other stuff. Like vampires).