The Plot: Annah has waited in the Dark City for years, waiting for the return of Elias. As children, they, along with Annah’s twin sister Abigail, had been lost in the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Abigail had been left behind by Annah and Elias, a betrayal that haunts the now teenaged Annah.
Annah waits, alone, scarred, not just by the abandonment of Abigail but also by Elias’s leaving Annah some years ago. Annah is also physically scarred: while exploring the abandoned tunnels of the Dark City, she fell into barbed wire and bears the marks on her face and body.
The city is falling apart, civilization is ending,and Annah is about to flee the city when, miraculously, she is reunited with both her long lost sister and Elias. The reunions are not what she had either feared or hoped. It is made all the more complicated by the appearance of the mysterious Catcher. As Annah adjusts from solitude and loneliness to being one of four, the living dead gain control of the city.
Annah’s world in the world created in The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead Tossed Waves; a world where generations before, the dead did not remain dead. The Forest of Hands and Teeth looked at this world from the point of view of a teenage girl, Mary, raised in an isolated religious village surrounded by a forest full of the living dead. The Dead Tossed Waves was about Gabry, Mary’s adopted daughter (and, it turns out, Annah’s missing sister), raised in safety and love with the dead safely behind walls.
The Good: The Dark and Hollow Places is my favorite book of the The Forest of Hands and Teeth series so far, and that is saying something since both of the previous books made my Favorites Books Read for 2009 and 2010). I adored the character of Annah: she has been beat up by the world, but she is not broken. She has built up emotional walls to protect herself, yet learns to let sister, friend, lover in.
Annah and Abigail are identical twins: Annah looks at Abigail — now Gabry — and sees what she, Annah, would have looked like and been like if she wasn’t scarred from barbed wire, if she had been loved by a mother and raised in a close, caring community. Readers of The Dead Tossed Waves know that Gabry’s life was not perfect. Annah does not want to be jealous of Gabry, especially since Annah believes it was her fault that the three children were initially lost in the forest. That Gabry ended up having a pretty good life is part of what Annah has to work through; Annah also has to work through Elias and Gabry’s relationship. Does Elias love Gabry because she is the unmarked Annah? This matters to Annah because of her bundle of emotions about Elias: Elias, the only person in her life for years. All her emotional life has been about Elias and now Elias loves another — not just any other, but Gabry.
Let me take a second to say, Ryan pulled me so into Annah’s interior and emotional life that I became more angry at Elias than Annah was! Luckily for Annah (and this reader), there was Catcher. I loved the love triangle here because the love between Annah and Elias was not about lust, not about boyfriend/girlfriend love. And Catcher, well, Catcher has his own secrets that keeps him at arm’s length from Annah and of course Annah believes “oh, it’s because of my barbed wire scars” and up the angst when Annah finds out the connection between Catcher and Gabry.
Just in case you’re thinking this is just an emotional merry go round, let me remind you: Living Dead. Zombies. Civilization survived the initial zombie apocalypse, yes, but the structure that developed has collapsed just as an endless, unstoppable Horde of living dead attack the Dead City. What happens is not pretty, and Annah (along with Elias, Gabry and Catcher) find themselves in the middle of it. The Dead and Hollow Places is full of running from zombies, encounters with zombies, and the nastiness that humans exhibit when faced with the end of the world as they know it.
Because Ryan brings both the emotion and action; because I was so invested in Annah’s well being, both physical and emotional; because the love interests were so real and tense and hot; The Dead and Hollow Places is one of my Favorite Books Read in 2011.