I just finished the Kindle edition of this book, by Greeneville SC native (and attorney!) Carrie Ryan. I read her first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, last weekend and loved it. This one? Not as much.
These stories are set in a dystopian future where an ‘infection’ has transformed most of the population into zombies (called the “Unconsecrated” or “Mudos”). Humans are confined to walled/fenced settlements for their own safety; communities are fairly isolated, and there’s no technology, or even electricity. (I guess the zombies knocked over the power plants?)
The world that Ryan has created is well-realized, the stories are very compelling, and the zombies themselves are fairly terrifying, however… The protagonist of Waves, a teenage girl named Gabry, is not as interesting or courageous a heroine as Mary (her mother, and the protagonist of Forest, set maybe 20 years earlier). I wasn’t as sympathetic to Gabry’s actions, which made it harder to identify with her.
Gabry lives in a town called Vista – it’s described as a place people visited, but no one lived, so I’m guessing it’s meant to be a Cape Cod/shore type community. It’s bounded on three sides by the ocean, and on the forth by a wooden barrier that keeps the zombies out. The plot wheels are set in motion when Gabry and her friends stray outside the barrier to an abandoned amusement park in the ruined city, an action that is expressly forbidden. There they are attacked by zombies, several teens are bitten and turned, or killed, and the others are punished by the town authority with what amounts to forcible conscription into the zombie fighting army. Among the bitten is Catcher, the brother of Gabry’s best friend, and the boy she has a huge crush on. She only crossed the barrier because of him; they shared their first kiss, and then he was attacked and bitten. Because she ran away before being caught, Gabry isn’t subject to any punishment, which both relieves her and fills her with terrible guilt, as her best friend is among the surviving – but conscripted – teens.
Compelled by her guilt and her feelings for Catcher, Gabry repeatedly risks her life over a period of several days to travel outside the barrier and check up on Catcher, who’s hiding in the ruined city. In the middle of this, her mother, Mary, decides to return to the forest from whence she escaped in the first book, and … just leaves her kid alone in the light house where they live, responsible for dispatching the waterlogged zombies that wash up on the shore. Then, ok, long story, Catcher turns out to be immune to the zombie infection, Gabry meets another boy who lives in the ruins of the old city outside the barrier, who helps her care for Catcher. Eventually, they rescue Catcher’s sister from her enforced conscription and escape into the forest.
Still with me? In the midst of all of this, during one of her trips over/across the barrier, Gabry murders (!!) a Recruiter (one of the town militia) who has come onto her in a creepy way in a couple of earlier scenes. I found that bizarre and out of character for this girl who is supposedly terrified of everything. (Except, apparently, stabbing people – even if he was obviously planning to do creepy things to her, he hadn’t yet.) THEN, during their flight through the forest (where paths of chain link fence keep them safe from the hungry zombies), they TWICE destroy the fences keeping the zombies at bay, which leads to the deaths of a number of pursuing militia men. I get that Gabry & Co. are doing what they have to do to escape, but I can’t get past the fact that they are fleeing in the first instance because they have (1) broken the rules by crossing the barrier where they (2) got caught/bitten/killed by zombies then (3) KILLED A SOLDIER, and (4) break Gabry’s BFF out of the brig, which she’s in because she broke the rules in the first place!
Ryan offers us tantalizing glances of how the world dealt with the original spreading infection, why the town Mary grew up in (a creepy place where most of the action in Hands takes place) was inferior to other, better equipped villages in the forest and why it was run by a group of creepy nuns known as the Sisterhood. There’s a third book coming out in September, I believe, and I hope that it will address more of the global issues of the zombie apocalypse, rather than the actions of one (kind of stupid) teenage girl.