Beyond the fence is the unknown. Which might sound attractive to those with the urge to explore -- people like Mary -- but there's something else beyond the fence that, while unexplained, isn't exactly unknown: the hordes of ravening Unconsecrated. Get too close and you're dead, torn apart and eaten. If you're bitten, it won't be long before you're one of them.
I don't think the word 'zombie' is ever used in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but, yes. That's what we're dealing with. HOWEVER. All of you "I don't like horror!!" people, don't count yourselves out yet -- because this book doesn't read like a horror novel. It reads like a historical novel set in a dystopian world.
I hope we're going to see more and more books -- like this one and Skin Hunger and the Kiss books -- that mix different genres (or at least the traditional feels of different genres). Not only do I really enjoy them (which is obviously a plus), but I think they must act as a genre gateway drug for people? Right? I mean, they must. If they don't, they totally should. Why aren't you people walking through the genre gateways?? ... Anyway.
My favorite aspect of the book is a bit spoilerish, so feel free to ignore this: I liked the idea of the zombie apocalypse happening and the survivors being so isolated and far-flung that a) they don't know about each other and b) generations later, their cultures have evolved in completely different ways. It's a cool idea and makes for a lot of possible stories and situations and I'm always happy when culture clash is thrown into the mix. Okay. Spoilerish moment over.
My main problem with it was that the only character (narrator included) I really, genuinely liked was Harry -- I didn't dislike the others, but I never got attached or cared all that much for them. That might be on me: as it's a zombie story, I knew from the start that there'd be some casualties, so I may have been holding my emotions in check, refusing to get attached. But it was noticeable enough that I thought I'd mention it.
And while the following wasn't a problem for me, I imagine that a lot of readers will be frustrated that the book ends without many (any?) answers. The lack of answers totally makes sense considering the knowledge/background of the narrator and the storyline, but that logic isn't going to stop some readers from wanting to throw things when they reach the end of the book. (I didn't, because I am calm and mature. But I can imagine how someone might feel like that.) To those readers, never fear: Carrie Ryan is working on a sequel. Of sorts.
And just because I need to get this out of my system: YAY ZOMBIES!!