But when Gabry lets herself be talked into sneaking out of the town one night, past the barrier, the life she's always known is shattered forever. The Mudo come, and Gabry sees how fragile her existence really is. Her friendships. Her life. The future she thought she'd have, with the boy she's always loved. In an instant, everything changes.
Suddenly, Gabry's place isn't in Vista anymore. Her place is out there, on the forest paths her mother once travelled, with the Mudo pressing in against the fences. And though she doesn't know what awaits her, Gabry knows it's a journey she has to take. No matter what the dangers.
One of my absolute favourite novels of 2009 was Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth, making The Dead-Tossed Waves one of my most anticipated titles of 2010. Ryan has opted for a change of protagonist in this instalment, which is a companion novel rather than a direct sequel. Although we do catch up with original MC Mary, this book is set some years in the future and told through the eyes of her daughter Gabry, who has grown up in a quite different environment and has a very different outlook on the world. In the first book we saw very little of life beyond Mary’s village, and we never really learnt much about how the events of the initial zombie outbreak. This time around, there’s a definite sense of a wider society of survivors, and through Gabry – whose village know the undead as Mudo rather than Unconsecrated – we get a little more background about what has brought humanity to this point. There’s also the occasional reminder that this fragile, dangerous world used to be ours - satellites orbiting uselessly in the sky, an abandoned amusement park. It’s eerie stuff.
Among Ryan’s greatest achievements in The Forest of Hands and Teeth was the way she put the reader on edge – and kept them there. Like protagonist Mary, we knew that even in the quietest moment, the Unconsecrated could make an appearance at any time... and then all hell would break loose. If anything, Ryan has stepped this up a gear in The Dead-Tossed Waves. Now we have Breakers, the superfast breed of Mudo that (for reasons I won’t spoil for you) are practically guaranteed to turn up just when the characters are at their most relaxed. Which, bearing in mind they’re living in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, really isn’t that relaxed at all. For the reader, this is great news. What we get is an action-packed, exhilarating journey – complete with plenty of macabre sightseeing along the way – as Gabry leaves the relative security of her village and ventures into the terrifying world outside. That feeling of never being safe reaches out of each page and fills us with a sense of foreboding that’s strangely addictive.
As in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, this companion novel also offers us a romantic dilemma. Gabry is torn between Catcher, a boy she’s grown up with (and the brother of her best friend), and the mysterious Elias, who she encounters on her first trip out of Vista alone. In The Dead-Tossed Waves Ryan illustrates that she really is darn good at creating the kind of love triangle you just can’t make up your mind about. My preference switched from Catcher to Elias and back again numerous times throughout the story, as Gabry’s journey throws everything she thought she knew about life and love into question.
The Dead-Tossed Waves is a triumphant return to the dark and compelling world that Carrie Ryan introduced us to in The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like all good sequels, it raises the stakes and it answers some of those intriguing questions that piqued our interest the first time around. Tense and intense, it’s the kind of story that will get under your skin. A must for zombie fans.
Out: now, UK and US