Gabry lives a peaceful life in the town of Vista, helping her mother man the lighthouse, never even thinking of setting a foot outside city limits. But when her best friend Cira invites her to explore the nearby amusement park ruins, Gabry can't refuse, not if she doesn't want Cira's cute brother, Cathcher, think that she's a coward. As they cross the fence and find themselves in the forbidden territory, Gabry and Catcher are getting along really well … until the group is surprised by the Unconsecrated.
After reading two of her books, I think I can safely say that beginnings are clearly not Ryan's forte – they always seem a bit too familiar. The beginning of The Forest of Hands and Teeth reminded me of The Village, and the one in The Dead-Tossed Waves could be its long lost twin brother. The protagonist is, again, a teenager, which was a huge disappointment in itself, since I was hoping for an older, more mature Mary. Instead, we get Gabry, a shy girl who doesn't like doing any of the forbidden things her peers like – for example, climbing over the town fences. We soon learn that Mary is still around, that she is, in fact, Gabry's mother, but we don't really see much of her.
What bothers me about Gabry is that she is predictable, which makes her a bit boring. Most of the time, she's either feeling guilty about something (usually for all the wrong reasons) or is being a bit of a drama queen, all the while expressing her feelings in great detail, with more than just a bit of pathos. i.e.: [minor spoiler]
“All the times I wondered about my mother. When I tried to remember her voice and her smell. When I felt empty and wrong for having forgotten her.” (pg. 306)
In fact, this was completely new for me; after Gabry found out that Mary is not her real mother, she surely spent lot of time fussing over how Mary never told her the truth, but never mentioned anything about trying to remember her real mother or 'feeling wrong for having forgotten her'. [end of spoiler]
Sometimes, however, there is a surprising lack of reaction from her. [another spoiler] When she kills someone in self-defence, there are no feelings of guilt, no nightmares or anything.
“I knew I killed him and yet hearing it from someone else – knowing it for sure – makes it somehow different. I realise then that there's a difference between the possibility of hope – the idea of things we can never know – and the starkness of reality. The weight of knowledge.” (pg. 213)
After that, Gabry spends no more thoughts on the incident. [end of spoiler]
As in Forest of Hands and Teeth, characters other than the protagonist are reduced to archetypes. There's Mary, the mother who gives advice and serves as a role model, Cira, the best friend, Catcher, the boy Gabry was in love with before she first left Vista, and Elias, the boy she's in love after she leaves Vista. Gabrielle's dilemmas about who she was and who she is now, complete with the two guys she is/was in love with, reminded me a bit of Scott Westerfeld's Pretties, where the protagonist struggles with similar questions.
As mentioned before, Gabry's reactions can be a bit unusual regarding the situation given. When some of her acquaintances die and the others, including her best friend, are to be exiled, Gabry doesn't seem very shocked by the deaths but is very concerned about how she ran away and left her peers alone with Mudo (aka Unconsecrated aka zombies), even though they don't seem to be friends of hers and she couldn't do much to help them either way. [minor spoiler] When Mary, on the other hand, tells Gabry that she's in fact not her biological mother, Gabry throws a fit about her being someone else's daughter and Mary being selfish. Even worse, she keeps being a drama queen about it, thinking about how Gabry is not her real name and how Mary is not her real mother.[end of spoiler] She also has some very unconvincing issues with being courageous – she is too afraid to follow Mary into the Forest but gladly and without much fear returns to zombie-infested wastelands to see a boy she likes, despite the danger.
Where Mary was atypical but likeable, Gabrielle is the typical 'good girl' who always does the right thing, but I still found it hard to sympathise with her. Her problems mostly seemed overblown to me; she made so much drama about every little thing that I found it hard to feel for her when she talked about some more serious problems, using the exact same tone.
I have no problem with books that are mostly character-driven, as The Dead-Tossed Waves certainly is, but they tend do be very hit and miss, especially since everything depends on the protagonist and how well the reader likes him/her. The Forest of Hands and Teeth was really good mostly because Mary was an interesting, refreshing character. Sadly, Gabrielle is not such a character – we've seen her type many times before. Since the plot backing her up has some problems with being predictable, and, at times, corny, The Dead-Tossed Waves is a huge disappointment for me. The book in itself is not so bad, but it doesn't even come near to living up to it predecessor.
-Trin's review of The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Tuesday, October 26, 2010