Audience: Teen/Young Adult
Summary: Set in a world after the "Return" (a viral apocalypse), the village is the only life and home that Mary has ever known. Constantly on guard against the Unconsecrated (infected individuals that die and come back as zombies, the village allows Mary to be only two things- a wife to a man she does not love or a Sister (a member of the religious order that rules the village.) However, Mary dreams of the Ocean, which she had heard of in the tales that her mother told her as a child. Will Mary ever achieve her dream and catch a glimpse of a life outside the village?
Lucinda's thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. Mary is a very complex character and does not always do what a traditional teen heroine would do. She is strong-willed, a bit selfish, and determined. But it is these qualities that allow her to survive in her world. The love quadrangle in the book only further illustrates Mary's strength. She is determined not to settle. Mary's character coupled with the suspense present throughout the book as to whether or not Mary will achieve her dream and just plain survive, makes for an engrossing read. On the whole, I highly recommend picking this book up from the library and getting drawn into Mary's world.
Tracy's Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
I reviewed this book a while back, when I selected it for our Book Picks for Juniors and Young Adults list. I really enjoyed it then, and still remember it fondly. The reason for the less-than-perfect rating? For me, the book seemed to lose momentum midway through as I lost interest in Mary's romantic troubles altogether. It was really the claustrophobic, secretive community and Mary's unwavering determination to escape despite the perils that really grabbed me. That said, I love Carrie Ryan's writing in this book and the complex character of Mary. Here's what I had to say way back when:
If you enjoy bleak, heartbreaking, beautifully crafted horror stories look no further. Mary lives in a terrifying world surrounded by fences that are constantly under threat of attack by the Unconsecrated. The Unconsecrated are zombies, although the word is never used. Mary and the others of her village are taught that they are the world’s last survivors of a terrible virus and that they must follow the rules laid out by the Sisters if they wish to survive. But Mary dreams of another life, holding fast to her dream of seeing the ocean—her one glimmer of hope as she faces a series of tragedies and betrayals. I loved that this is not another glossy paranormal romance with a happy ending guaranteed. There is real tragedy here—people suffer, and people die. Mary is not a character that is always easy to root for; she is undeniably flawed, sometimes selfish, and often fickle. The conflict between Mary’s “duty,” her understandable fear of what lies beyond the fences, and her own dreams is what makes this story so memorable and—in spite of the zombies—relatable. Also, Ryan’s writing style has a wonderful flow and elegance to it, with a compulsive readability that will have you turning pages long into the night.