The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Dark December
Something about winter always makes me want to hibernate. This month's titles, highly dictated by the holds that just happened to come in, are pretty dark. If you are faint of heart, squemish, not a fan of serious books, or are concerned about questionable content, these are not for you. Most of these books are recommended for older teens.

Mary has a rough life. Her father was taken by the Unconsecrated, and her mother pines for him daily. Her best friend Cass is engaged to her crush Travis, and her other best friend Harry wants to marry her. That was until everything got worse. One day her mother is bitten. In a few days she will turn, turn into one of the Unconsecrated: one of the walking dead who Return after natural death to haunt the Forest of Hands and Teeth outside the protective fences of her village.

After her mother is gone, she goes to live with the Sisters. It is the Sisterhood who protects the village, guides their traditions, keeps their history, or so she thought. Once she is taken there, she learns that she was wrong. It is a prison for her, and her friends and family have abandoned her. The Sisters have been lying to everyone.

One day, Travis is brought to the Cathedral with a horrendous wound. She is charged with tending to him, and this is her only solace. Until the breach. Suddenly everything is chaos, and the only way out is to follow the fences. Where will it take them?

It's a dark post-apocalyptic zombie tale, with thoughful attention to detail. The intensity of teenage emotions is well captured, and the questions it asks could lead to an interesting discussion. What would the world become if we lost our ability to communicate with each other through technology?

"My mother used to tell me about the ocean. she said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away. She once showed me a picture that she said was my great-great-great-grandmother standing in the ocean as a child. It has been years since, and the picture was lost to fire long ago, but I remember it, faded and worn. A little girl surrounded by nothingness," (Ryan pg. 1, 2009).

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Monster Island: A Zombie Novel by David Wellington

Ryan, Carrie. (2009). The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Delacorte Press: New York, NY.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

You hear horror stories about children being kidnapped on the news. Unimaginable stories that hold your attention, and make you feel lucky that nothing like that has ever happened to you. "Alice" was one of those girls, she was a selfish little girl who took her life for granted. She never knew that someone like Ray was out there, waiting for her.

"Alice" is not her real name. In fact, she doesn't even refer to herself by her real name, because she is no longer that girl. He came for her while she was on a school field trip, threatening her with the harm of her family if she ever tries to escape. He tells her of the old "Alice", the one who came before her. All she can do is dream of the day when he will no longer want her. Old "Alice" was replaced when she was 15.

Ray tries to keep her looking as young as possible. She is always hungry, always wears little girl clothes. More than anything else, she has learned that no one notices. People see her, know she is not quite right, know that there is something horrible about her, but no one ever asks. Even the neighbors never say anything. Her only hope is for Ray to tire of her, and find someone else. One day, he decides that she will help him find a new girl. "Alice" will find her replacement. Can she do it? Will she ever find a way to escape him?

The book deals with bleak subject matter, the psychology of kidnappers and victims, the construction of personal identity, and what we take for granted in our lives. "Alice" may not be the brave we wish to be, but she represents what we are capable of handling. Graphic in parts, and deals with rape, kidnapping, child abuse. Recommended for older teens.

"The thing is, you can have that kind of power, and everyone in those audiences knows it. That's why they yell. That's why the say YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING. They have power too. I'd like to see them with it taken away. I'd like to see What They'd Do then," (Scott pg. 41, 2008).

If you liked this, check out:

Scott, Elizabeth. (2008). Living Dead Girl. Simon Pulse: New York, NY

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy

Will Henry is an assistant apprentice. He works under Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, one of the foremost Monstrumologists in the world. What's a Monstrumologist? Someone who studies monsters, of course. In fact, Will Henry's father was his assistant previous to his untimely death. Dr. Warthrop has taken Will in, and while he is hardly fatherly, still takes care of him. Perhaps one of the most heard phrases in this book is, "Snap to, Will Henry!"

Will knows more than he ever wanted about mysterious creatures, and one night, becomes entangled in a monster hunt. Anthropophagi, frightening man-eaters, have invaded his hometown-more specifically the cemetery-and a corpse is brought to the doctor.

The hunt is on, as the Doctor and Will begin to unravel the mystery. It seems Dr. Warthrop's father may have been involved. A trip to an insane asylum, a visit from a mysterious monster hunter, and a tale of a doomed ship's voyage, and the stand-off between the monsters will keep you up late. Hopefully it won't give you bad dreams, but the graphic imagery and occasionally gruesome accounts are both repulsive and intriguing.

This is an especially great read for boys who enjoy a little more gore. Not for the faint of heart. Great elements of steampunk and horror.
"He is what he hunts, Malachi had said. I did not believe that but understood how Malachi might judge him, and the rest of the town as well, once it learned of the Anthropophagi onslaught," (Yancey pg. 262, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Extrordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey
Leviathan by Scott Westerfield
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Yancey, Rick. (2009). The Monstrumologist. Simon and Schuster: New York, NY.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Mia's life is on track. She's got a great family, a loving boyfriend, a no-nonsense best friend, and a real shot at getting accepted into Juilliard's School of Music with her cello playing. Her parents are the hip, aging rockers that you wish were your parents, and her little brother is almost like her own son. It started out as a good day. School was cancelled because of the slight dusting of snow, and even Mom took the day off to spend with the family. On their drive to visit Grandma and Grandpa something happens. The car is suddenly ripped apart, and so is Mia's world. Her parents are dead on impact, and she is floating above the scene.

It gives a new meaning to 'out of body experience'. She follows herself to the hospital, and begins to understand that her life is changed forever. She must make a decision. Will she stay? One by one her family arrives, first her grandparents, then her aunts and uncles. Her best friend, Kim, comes with her mother. Finally, Adam, her boyfriend rides over with his bandmates.

Mia reflects on her life to this point, where it was going, what is most important to her. She thinks about what life will be like moving forward. It is decidedly a sad book, but very well written. There are many reminiscences of happier times which temper the mood, and moments that made me laugh out loud. I highly recommend this on audio book, as well.
"'Just listen,' Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel. I open my eyes wide now. I sit up as much as I can. And I listen. 'Stay,' he says," (Forman, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Sisters in Sanity by Gayle Forman
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Forman, Gayle. (2009). If I Stay. Dutton Books: New York, NY.