Great companion novel
After reading Carrie Ryan's debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I couldn't wait for the release of her next book. The Dead-Tossed Waves (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Book 2) did not disappoint. Gabry, the daughter of Mary, has grown up in the sheltered sea town of Vista, watching her mother take care of the lighthouse and dispose of the undead Mudo (Unconsecrated) that wash up on the beach. Gabry's life has been about fear of the Mudo and staying safe. After she takes a risk by following her friends and her crush over the Barrier one night, her entire world unravels. Her web of friends and family are missing, dead, or infected, and the only answers and hope seem to lie beyond the Barrier. Despite her fear, Gabry must decide what risks are worth it to survive, both emotionally and physically.
In some ways, this book excels its predecessor. Ryan's writing was strong in the first novel, but it's even better this time. First-person, present-tense can be a difficult style to use, but Ryan does it well with writing that is descriptive and evocative. The protagonist, Gabry, is very relatable, and characters are more well-defined in this book. Sense of place is strong, as is pacing; Ryan doesn't hesitate to take the reader into dark action in the first 30 pages and doesn't ease up after that. Relationships between characters feel real, and the romantic/sexual tension is palpable and aching. The story also allows the reader to know what happened to Mary, even if it's decades later, and questions are answered about the mythology of the Mudo/Unconsecrated. Like the first book, the novel explores complex issues, including the purpose of life, the repercussions of one's actions, and the selflessness of real love. Differently, though, the reader is left with more hope for the characters.
In other ways, however, the book wasn't as good as the first. Some plot points felt recycled, like the repetition of dangers, the need to flee, and the love triangle. Having read the first book, there was also a certain predictability that nothing would turn out well. There's a lot of death and destruction, and some of the main characters engage in or silently condone some very bothersome or violent actions. The story finished with little closure and an obvious cliffhanger ending to set up the sequel.
All in all, though, this was another dark, gripping read from Ryan, and I look forward to the continuation of Gabry's story in the next installment. Though it can be read as a standalone, I would recommend reading THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH first. There are a few clues and poignant moments along the way that won't resonate unless you've read the first book.