Tuesday, April 20, 2010

carrie ryan's the dead tossed waves is as good as the forest of hands and teeth; zombie genre with emotions & love

Finally I'm getting around to writing up a review for one of my favourite new authors. America's Carrie Ryan burst onto the fantasy scene with The Forest of Hands and Teeth in 2009; it was a zombie novel for girls.

What separates Ryan's work from the usual genre is her ability to not only add romance to a zombie novel, but to also give the reader emotional insight into what it would actually feel like to see your loved ones return as something less than an animal.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth was a great book; it received a heap of praise from fans and critics alike so I was excited to read the “companion book” to see if Ryan would live up to expectations.
And she has. The Dead Tossed Waves continues years after Mary has found sanctuary of a sort in a seaside town, fenced off from both the zombies and the forest where they roam. This time the action centres on Mary's daughter Gabry who is about 15 years old and just becoming interested in boys – one boy in particular.
As often happens with teens, the boy and his friends convince Gabry to do something she really knows she shouldn't, and the consequences of this one act direct the path of the plot.
This is Ryan's true skill; she takes a common, everyday occurrence like teens doing something they shouldn't, blends it with moral quandaries and coming-of-age motifs and then adds zombies.
Obviously the zombies can represent just about any modern day ill – drugs, teenage pregnancy, crime – but the addition of a fantasy trope means the Young Adult readers this is aimed at won't take too much umbrage.
Gabry proves herself to be resourceful, strong and weak by turns, petty and generous, smart and stupid – just like any teenage girl. She discovers things about her past that rock her world, yet she manages to both understand her mother as a person and woman, while realising that Mary did the best she could.
Ryan's prose leads the reader into noticing the little things, people's mannerisms that give away their inner thoughts, the way the sea appears to a girl locked in a society of rigid rules and how easy it is to fall in love.
The Dead Tossed Waves is beautifully written and shows that while fantasy and genre fiction may not be nominated for a Booker Prize, it can be good literature.

The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan is published by Gollancz and is available from good book stores and online.


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