With Catcher lost among the ruins, Gabry is torn between safety and love. If she stays in Vista she won’t have to seeing Catcher turn Mudo; however, if she stays, she risks being turned in by the others who were captured beyond the Barrier. Ultimately, her love for Catcher pushes her into the ruins. On her first visit to the ruins she meets Elias, a boy that is wandering in the wilderness. She is instantly drawn to his mysterious nature, but she is not sure if she can trust him. There are many things about him that seem strange: he lives in the wild, he dresses like a Mudo-worshipping Souler, and he calls the Mudo “Unconsecrated”—just like her mother.
After several surprising events, Gabry finds herself running to the Forest of Hands and Teeth for safety, along with Catcher, Cira (Catcher’s sister), and Elias. As they travel the Forest, the group eventually encounters Gabry’s mother and Harry (both from the first novel) and the secret to Gabry’s past.
I was worried that this book would be too much like the first novel in the series, but it ended up being a pleasant surprise. While it did seem very familiar at times, there were enough differences to make it unique. I’m thankful that this book was full of different characters. (Mary and Harry had minor roles in the plot.) Had this been a continuation of the first novel, I don’t think I would have liked it as much. The descriptions of the Mudo and the Forest were the same in this book. I was slightly disappointed that nothing more profound happened with either in this book, actually. I keep hoping that some hint of what caused the Return would emerge, but there was no such hint.
As before, characterization was great. Gabry was the typical conflicted teenager, struggling with leaving the safety of a life she’s known for the unknown. Her story isn’t unique (In fact, she seemed a lot like Mary from book #1), but she was well developed. You could feel the struggle she faced when she had to choose between Catcher and Elias. Also, the pain she experienced when she realized the story of her past seemed so real. I felt so sorry for her. Elias seemed a little too mysterious to me during the book. When they reached Mary’s village, it made sense why he seemed so stand-offish, but I still didn’t fully buy into it. There was a hint of Elias reappearing in the third book, so I’m hoping we get a better insight into his character then.
I was also a little disappointed with Catcher. He found himself in a terrible situation, but he seemed to use that as an excuse to dismiss Gabry too easily. I really didn’t like how hot/cold his emotions seemed to be. As I read the story of Gabry and Catcher I couldn’t help but feel that there was some huge chunk of history missing. There really should have been more to their story.
As with the first book, the plot is fast paced. Within the first two chapters the problem emerges and stays at a constant pace until the end. The characters added a newness to the book; whereas, the plot was very familiar. The time Gabry, Catcher, and Elias spend in the Forest seems like a repeat from the first book, but it still moves quickly enough (even though I thought it lagged a little at times). In The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Mary and her group were trying to find life outside of the Forest. This book seems to be about finding life within the Forest. Same struggles. Same conflicts—conflicting love, painful choices, the truth about one’s past. All of it was very familiar.
Overall I found it to be a decent book. I’m still not jumping in line to buy a t-shirt or a “Team Catcher” bumper sticker, but it was worth reading. If you liked (or loved) the first book, you’ll feel the same about this one. If you hated the first book, you can give this one a try. If you aren’t sold within the first 75 pages I can guarantee you won’t mind putting it aside.
a little insight into old characters