The Forest of Hands and Teeth



Cool heroine makes this for more than zombie horror fans.
Popular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value
Not applicable
Positive messages

This book imparts messages about keeping hope alive, and fighting for a better world -- even if it means chopping off some zombie heads.

Positive role models

Mary is a positive role model who never gives up. She is tough, strong, curious, adventurous, and brave. Her brother and friends are also loyal and compassionate people who try to do the right thing as they can see it.


Life in a primitive village surrounded by wire fencing is pretty violent for those inside trying to stay out of reach of the zombies living outside it. Gruesome deaths of both zombies and the villagers are everyday occurrences; parents are left to die, children are infected and become zombies if they're not killed first.


Some kissing.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a great read for teens who love horror. Expect the gruesome deaths that come with any zombie story -- it's kill or be killed, and kids are taught at young ages to use weapons and show no pity for the undead. But even teens that don't usually read horror will find this dystopian romance compelling.

What's the story?

Teenaged Mary has lost both parents to the Unconsecrated zombies that live outside her village. The boy she loves is courting someone else. Her brother wants her to join the Sisterhood and puts her in the convent. The Sisters are zealots that rule through fear and control with ritual weddings while the male Guardians keep everyone safe -- or at least alive. But then the Unconsecrated break down the fence and it's anarchy. What's a girl to do? Mary leads her brother, her betrothed, and her true love through the zombie-filled forest of hands and teeth, severing heads as she goes, and finding more secrets as she gets closer and closer to the truth.

Is it any good?


Very well crafted with compelling narratives, this is a complex novel that reveals its secrets slowly. The post-apocalyptic setting among the undead will resonate with teens who find escape in dystopic tales. Mary is a teen surrounded by despair who never gives up hope, and dreams of a better world even when everyone around her gives up. Readers who don't mind some gore will find it hard to put down. Even the romance has twists and turns without easy answers. Ryan creates some unforgettable characters and world-blending here.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the religion that governs life in Mary's village. How does the Sisterhood enforce its rules? Through love or fear?

  • Are the marriages arranged by the Sisterhood? Or do the young people truly have the freedom to choose their spouse?

  • When Mary finds herself inside the Sisterhood, secrets begin to reveal themselves. Is it easier to keep secrets in a small village, or a large country?

  • What drives Mary to pursue the truth? Her mother's stories? Or her belief in true love?

Book details

Author:Carrie Ryan
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Delacorte Press
Publication date:March 10, 2009
Number of pages:310
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Read aloud:12
Read alone:13

This review of The Forest of Hands and Teeth was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Dreamy, lyrical supernatural Southern romance.
  • Does for werewolves what Twilight did for vampires.
  • Contemporary Beauty-Beast tale curses shallow rich kid.
  • Fallen angels are the new, more charming vampires.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written byGrace1111 April 24, 2011
I thought this was an interesting book, but I really dislike it when books deliberatey leave out things becuase they want youn to read the other books in the series. In this sense it was very disappointing because I enjoy series, but I like each book to good on it's own as well. I felt like I was being prodded into reading the next book, just because I didn't understand everything in the first book. However, I did think this was an interesting twist on zombie apocalypses. It wasn't too science fiction-y, and I expected it to be just like every other zombie apocalypes book, movie, or tv show ever made, but it wasn't, and I really enjoyed and appreciated that.
Teen, 14 years old Written bySkylyn October 25, 2011

Great book

I love video games as much as books ( mostly zombie games) so wen I saw this i knew i had to read it my mom loves these kinds of books i read this last year when i was 13 and i just love the whole idea on how life would be if something this life-changing happened to society and what would really happen and this book really gives it a perspective on how it might be -- anyways i just really liked the book !!
Teen, 13 years old Written byannafan June 16, 2011

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

It was an amazing book. I read it a few times, own it and the entire trilogy and it is my favorite of all books i've read. It is slightly violent because it is in a zombie apocalypse so you have the deaths, but nothing extreme. There is no language, and nothing extremely sexual, just some kissing. Children younger, at youngest 11 could read this too, because it really isn't that extreme in it's content, but it might be scary for littler children, thinking that one day we might actually become zombies, and give them nightmares, so know your self or your child. But above all, I highly recommend this book. Adults will also like it, because I recommended it to my aunt, and she loved it.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide