Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Map to Everywhere – a new fantasy series for middle graders begins here

map to everywhereThe Map to Everywhere, by Carrie Ryan & John Parke DavisĀ (2014, Little Brown Books for Young Readers), $17, ISBN: 9780316240772

Recommended for ages 10-13

Fin is the perfect thief – any memory of him fades from everyone he meets. But one day, he gets a letter – someone knows him – and offers him a mission that will help him find his mother. He finds his way to the magical Pirate Stream, a waterway that connects every world in creation, where he encounters Marrill, a schoolgirl from Arizona, who’s just trying to get home, a young pirate captain, and a wizard, all searching for the pieces of a Map to Everywhere – the only problem is, an evil wizard and his crew are in search of the same Map, so he can end the world.

We’ve got the makings of a big pirate adventure with this series: two promising young heroes, a wizard and a captain that will almost certainly see more development as the series proceeds, and a world-ending Big Bad. Both Fin and Marrill have their own motivations, which give us some interesting subplots and leave us in a good place for future adventures.

I admit that I struggled with the book, overall. There was something that didn’t hook me right away, a sense of needing something more. About halfway through, I was finally on board and engaged. I don’t think middle grade adventure and fantasy lovers will have this issue at all, though. With strong male and female characters, a sharp sense of humor and exciting storytelling, this will be a good summer reading choice.

Carrie Ryan is best known for her YA post-apocalyptic series, beginning with The Forest of Hands and Teeth; she’s writing this series with her husband, first-time novelist John Parke Davis. You can find activity sheets and extras on the Map to Everywhere site, which also features links to the first eight chapters via Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play.

Posted in Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian, Teen

Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan (Random House, 2009)

the-forest-of-hands-and-teethRecommended for ages 14+

Mary and her brother Jed live in a post-apocalyptic world, in a small village overseen by the Sisterhood and the Guardians. The Sisterhood is the reunion of church and state, a governing body that rules through their faith. The Guardians keep them safe from the Forest of Hands and Teeth, always outside their gates.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth refer to the zombies that wander, ever-present, just outside of the settlement. When the settlement fences are breached, Mary, her brother and a small group of survivors escape and seek the ocean, where Mary believes they will be able to start over. But they have to make it through the forest first.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is one of those books that has layer upon layer of complex storytelling, all centered around the main character, Mary. Ms. Ryan explores her relationships – with her mother, her brother, her best friend, fiance, and his brother, her true love – against the backdrop of the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. She is an obsessive character, driven by her drive to question. What lies beyond the settlement? Are there more settlements, more people, out there? What secrets does the Sisterhood keep from everyone? Where is the ocean, that her mother raised her on stories about? At times, the character appears cold and self-serving; she is single-minded in her purpose.

As the first in a post-apocalyptic series (The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places are the sequels), the book is bleak but compelling. It doesn’t focus on the zombie horror, but it’s an ever-present threat that crawls down the reader’s spine and makes one’s heart beat with a sense of urgency at key points.

Author Carrie Ryan writes for middle grade and young adult readers, and has a full list of work available on her website, where readers can also follow her blog, follow her on social media, find out about appearances and news, and download icons, buttons, banners, and bookmarks.