YA ZOMBIE Friday: The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

Friday, November 11, 2011

Title: The Dead-Tossed Waves; The Dark and Hollow Places
Author: Carrie Ryan
Series: The Forest of Hands and Teeth #2 and #3
Genre: YA, paranormal, horror
Publisher: Delacorte Books For Young Readers, 2010; 2011
Source: Library

The Dead-Tossed Waves picks up several years after The Forest of Hands and Teeth leaves off (so spoilers are a fair warning for the first book). Mary is living in a lighthouse by the sea with her daughter, Gabry. Gabry enjoys her safety -- she doesn't want to go outside the Barrier, and she really doesn't want to ever go into the Forest of Hands and Teeth. However, after reluctantly going outside the Barrier one fateful night (for a boy, naturally), Gabry's life changes forever. Her decisions affect everyone around her, and she must learn to come to terms with what she has done and what she wants to do.

If I could describe The Dead-Tossed Waves in one word, it would be angst. Gabry is a very confused girl. She doesn't know what she wants, she doesn't know how to deal with what she's done, she doesn't know who she's interested in. She is very angry and she makes quite a few mistakes. The selfishness of the main characters seems to be a theme in this series; the characters are trying to strike a balance between their will to survive and the (angsty) love they feel for their friends (but mostly their moody, equally angsty love interests). In the case of Mary from the first book, I wasn't ever really bothered by it. Occasionally her drive to find the sea became a bit all-consuming -- I can't imagine wanting to find a location more than wanting to stay with the people I love. However, her drive and her decisions made sense to me. Gabry was all over the place, constantly changing her mind and discussing her uncertainty. At times it was grating for me.

The story itself was much more exciting than The Forest of Hands and Teeth, rife with chilling moments. The opening scene was absolutely explosive and set the scene for the rest of the book. I was spellbound by this book -- it definitely causes "one-more-chapter"syndrome. I also enjoyed seeing the way the Unconsecrated -- or the Mudo, as they are called in this book -- are seen and dealt with in the seaside community of Vista. The village in The Forest of Hands and Teeth was isolated, ruled by a nun-like community of Sisters. The city of Vista is run by the Protectorate, a government agency with stringent rules to try and preserve the survival of the human race. It is also filled with Recruiters, a sort-of army that finds supplies, clears out areas for settlement, and kills as many Mudo as possible. The ending was rending of course, as per Ms. Ryan's style, but was slightly more hopeful than the complete decimation of The Forest of Hands and Teeth. 

I do think the lovely writing style that I enjoyed in The Forest of Hands and Teeth was less present in The Dead-Tossed Waves. It was drowned out with angsty-angst-angst and frightening moments. However, it does make a reappearance in The Dark and Hollow Places.

I am going to be intentionally vague in this summary because while The Dead-Tossed Waves is separate enough from The Forest of Hands and Teeth that not too many spoilers surface, The Dark and Hollow Places begins only a few weeks after and is more directly connected. The Dark and Hollow Places is about Annah, a girl who left her twin sister in The Forest of Hands and Teeth years ago and has been struggling to eke out a life every since in the Dark City, first with her "brother," Elias, and later on her own when Elias joins the Recruiters. Scarred and tough, Annah knows how to survive, and is driven to survive at all costs. However, she realizes that sometimes living is more important than surviving, and has to choose the kind of life that she really wants.

Where The Dead-Tossed Waves left me occasionally disappointed, The Dark and Hollow Places left me completely fulfilled. First of all, the writing was stunning. Only rarely do books deliver a complete, cohesive picture straight to my mind when I read a scene. This one did -- I could see the snow, the treacherous tunnels, Annah's scars, everything (although why does the girl on the cover have no scars at all, hmm?).  The images were beautiful despite the bleakness of the story and the setting.

And the story was very bleak. While the characters in the other book have encounters with the Mudo, some of them absolutely terrifying (re: the final scene in The Dead-Tossed Waves -- I can't even imagine), in this book they are all around. The characters are right in the trenches with the zombies, and Annah is grabbed more than once, feeling fingers wrap around her ankles or her wrists or her hair. And the zombies aren't the only dangers in this world -- there are horrible, twisted people who pose just as much, if not more, of a threat. I had the most moments of being completely freaked out in this book. As being freaked out is kind of the point of why I read them, I was pleased with this. And despite the bleak, bleak setting, the book also had the highest concentration of hope. The way Annah transforms from someone who is living for another breath to someone who is passionately clinging to the pain and beauty of life was moving. She is one of the toughest characters I've ever read.

Overall, I recommend both of these books (and the first, of course). They are frightening and disturbing. Carrie Ryan is pretty ruthless in disposing of characters. However, the overall message is one of hope amidst the bleakest of circumstances.

The Dead-Tossed Waves: 3.5 stars
The Dark and Hollow Places: 4 stars

Warnings: a few swears, zombie violence (lots) and some human violence as well


  1. Alright. I"ve been holding on to The Dark and Hollow Places for MONTHS and haven't read it. I think it's partly because I don't want the series to end because I've loved the books so much, and partly because I was concerned I wouldn't love this one like I did the others. You've convinced me to pick it up, finally. Pretty sure it'll be the next one I read. I seriously can't wait to see what Carrie Ryan comes up with next.

  2. I just had to comment on your "currently reading" icon-Rebecca is one of my favorite books! Are you loving it? I think it's so amazing.

  3. @Molly Jo - I like this one best! I hope you enjoy it too. I am so excited to see what else she writes, too! She is so talented.

    @Jackie - It was great! You can't fail with Rebecca.


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