The Forest of Hands and Teeth: A series by Carrie Ryan

There are a lot of zombie books and zombie apocalypse series out there – a lot – but most of them are deeply committed to doing not much more than repeating the genre’s most commonplace memes, like a C-grade Louis L’Amour knock-off Western back in the day. But every now and then, there will be a writer like Carrie Ryan who manages to re-invigorate the old cliches with a new sense of energy, uncertainty, and just plain creepiness.

Ryan’s story starts many, many years – maybe many generations – after the dead have risen. A small walled garrison may be the last outpost of humans in a world – a world young teen Mary and her friends see as an endless forest, populated by mindless infected cannibals. If you get sick, you’re ejected. If you break the rules – and there are a lot of rules – you are ejected. But ultimately, Mary is willing to risk that. She can’t stand the walls that literally and spiritually enclose her. All she wants to do is see the ocean – something no one she knows has ever seen – and the journey to get her there is terrifying, violent, and something even zombie fans have never seen before.

Forest appeared in 2008; its sequel, The Dead-Tossed Waves, came a couple of years later, and the end of the core trilogy, The Dark and Hollow Places, a few years after that. And here’s the best part: Carrie Ryan produced a couple of lesser-known novellas set in the same world, Hare Moon and What Once We Feared. Both are Kindle-only and just $1.99 each. So even if you or your zombie lover (?) has read the books, these novellas might be new to them: digital stocking stuffers.

Carrie Ryan continues to produce a prodigious amount of stories for the young adult market. You can take a look at her website here and keep up with her.