8 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Title: The Dead-Tossed Waves

Author: Carrie Ryan

Genre: Horror, Post-Apocalypse/Dystopia, Young Adult

Publisher: Delacorte
Publication Date: March 2010
Hardcover: 416 Pages

Gabry lives a quiet life, secure in her town next to the sea and behind the Barrier. She’s content to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. Home is all she’s ever known, and all she needs for happiness.

But life after the Return is never safe, and there are threats even the Barrier can’t hold back.

Gabry’s mother thought she left her secrets behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, but like the dead in their world, secrets don’t stay buried. And now, Gabry’s world is crumbling.

One night beyond the Barrier…

One boy Gabry’s known forever and one veiled in mystery…

One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned.

Gabry knows only one thing: if she is to have any hope of a future, she must face the forest of her mother’s past.

Stand alone or series: Book 2 in a planned trilogy, however can be read as a stand alone novel.

How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publisher

Why did I read this book: I am a huge Carrie Ryan fangirl. Her first novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth was one of my Top 10 Reads of 2009 – needless to say, I was chomping at the bit (ho-ho!) for the chance to read The Dead-Tossed Waves.


On the shore of a horizon-spanning placid ocean is a lighthouse, its beacon a lone, strong light in the night, cutting through the darkness that enshrouds the seaside town of Vista. With her mother, Mary, Gabrielle tends to the shore, living a life of relative calm and security. When the Mudo wash up on the shore following high tides, Gabry helps her mother decapitate and dispatch of them, as is their duty as keepers in the small town. Gabry has always known a life of safety behind the village barriers; a beloved daughter, a dear best friend, and maybe even one day, someone’s girlfriend. When her friends decide to sneak over the barrier for a night in the rundown amusement park just outside the walls, Gabry is terrified. She has never broken the rules and does not wish to step beyond the safety of her world; especially not into a place where the insatiable Mudo could be lurking. But, urged on by her best friend Cira and the boy that makes her heart race, Catcher, Gabry sneaks out with the others into the ruins. It is here that she shares her first kiss with Catcher, and revels in the promise that her life holds. All of those dreams and hopes, however, come crashing down – a “breaker” senses the humans nearby, and sprints towards the group of teens, infecting and killing three of the group, Catcher among them. In an instant, Gabrielle’s life, and her friends’ lives, have been turned upside down. While Gabry is able to escape, her surviving friends aren’t so lucky, and are sentenced to service with the Recruiters – the force that patrols and protects the villages of the loose confederation from the Mudo threat – but without reward of citizenship at the end of their two year term. To Gabry’s mind, this is a death sentence – and still shocked by the loss of Catcher to infection, she’s also losing everyone she’s ever known. When Cira begs her to find out, to follow her brother Catcher until his demise, Gabry cannot refuse – and so she makes her way across the sea of the dead, and beyond the barriers of her safe, now shattered, world.

Well, wow. The Dead-Tossed Waves was my numero uno; my absolute MOST highly anticipated novel of 2010. In other words, The Dead-Tossed Waves had quite a bill to live up to – and, for the most part, I am happy to report that it does.

There’s a strength of plot and of continuity with The Dead-Tossed Waves. We readers get ANSWERS in this book. We learn why some of the Mudo/Unconsecrated are fast, and some are slow; we finally see the origins of Mary’s village in the forest of hands and teeth; we learn about the outside world, how it is governed, and what future is available to the living, surviving amongst the undead.

Beyond the strengths in terms of plotting, The Dead-Tossed Waves works so well because of how tragically flawed and heartrendingly human all of its characters are. This novel is a continuation of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but instead of following protagonist Mary, the novel follows Mary’s daughter in an interesting twist. Inevitably, this invites a whole bunch of comparisons between Mary and Gabry, as heroines and narrators. Gabry is not as winsome as her mother – but that’s a tough legacy to live up to. Heck, even Gabrielle knows this, as she constantly compares herself to her mother! Countless times, she extrapolates about her lack of strength, her lack of curiosity and lack of a sense of adventure – especially since her mother was willing to risk so much on a mere dream. Though, Gabry is much more like her mother than she gives herself credit for – she too makes a number of impulsive, not-so-hot decisions yet is strong in her own, different way. It should be said, however, that Gabry is ever-so-slightly irritating with her emotional equivocating between two devoted boys (seriously, where do YA heroines find these guys?), and in her tendency to put blame on herself for EVERYTHING (which reads as slightly ego-centric).

But… isn’t that what people are really like?

Not always brave and strong, not always right, not always knowing what they want, not in tune with where their hearts lie? I loved that Gabry was terrified, paralyzed by fear, and unlike Mary. In stark contrast to her mother, who grew up with dreams bigger than her village’s fences could contain and who lost her family to the Unconsecrated, Gabry has grown up in love, and in a home sheltered in safety. Does that make her “weak”? I don’t think so. In fact, it makes it harder for her, because she has so much more to lose. And the most endearing thing about Gabry is the fact that she is so afraid of the outside world, and in spite of that fear, she does take the risk and lives, challenging the barriers that have held the Unconsecrated/Mudo out, but also trapping her in, too. And that, dear readers, is really, really freaking cool.

Beyond the first-person protagonist, the other characters of The Dead-Tossed Waves are similarly endearing. Elias, the boy shrouded in mystery, is awesome. He is a shadowed, uncertain figure; an outsider that uses Gabry’s mother’s terminology to describe the Mudo – Unconsecrated. Then there’s Catcher, Gabry’s first love interest – who also is a very interesting character, connected to Gabry in a way that Elias never really can be.

All this said, The Dead-Tossed Waves is by no means a perfect novel. It falls short of its predecessor, straying towards the melodramatic in its last few chapters, with plot twists thrown in to tear apart characters for the sole reason of emotional exploitation. There’s also the familiar YA syndrome of two dreamy dudes head-over-heels in love with the same girl, and you know how that song goes. Yet, despite these minor drawbacks, The Dead-Tossed Waves is a beautiful, heartwrenching novel. These are very genuine characters, in an impossible, terrifying reality, confronted with the choice to survive, or to live.

And that, my friends, makes all the difference in the world.

You’ve got to love (or at least respect) an author that does not shy away from heartache. When you live in a forest of jagged teeth and sickly moans, on the shores of a sea teeming with bloated, ever-hungry corpses, you are unquestionably surrounded by death. Death is inevitable. And for all this sorrow and bitterness, The Dead-Tossed Waves is tempered with hope, and with love. That’s a wonderful, rare thing. Written throughout with Carrie Ryan’s dazzling, almost poetic, poignant prose, The Dead-Tossed Waves is a novel to be read over and over again.

I loved it. And I cannot wait for more from this incredibly talented author.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From the first chapter:

The story goes that even after the Return they tried to keep the roller coasters going. They said it reminded them of the before time. When they didn’t have to worry about people rising from the dead, when they didn’t have to build fences and walls and barriers to protect themselves from the masses of Mudo constantly seeking human flesh. When the living weren’t forever hunted.

They said it made them feel normal.

And so even while the Mudo—neighbors and friends who’d been infected, died and Returned—pulled at the fences surrounding the amusement park, they kept the rides moving.

Even after the Forest was shut off, one last gasp at sequestering the infection and containing the Mudo, the carousel kept turning, the coasters kept rumbling, the teacups kept spinning. Though my town of Vista was far away from the core of the Protectorate, they hoped people would come fly along the coasters. Would still want to forget.

But then travel became too difficult. People were concerned with trying to survive and little could make them forget the reality of the world they lived in. The coasters slowly crumbled outside the old city perched at the tip of a long treacherous road along the coast. Everyone simply forgot about them, one other aspect of pre-Return life that gradually dimmed in the memories and stories passed down from year to year.

I never really thought about them until tonight—when my best friend’s older brother invites us to sneak past the Barriers and into the ruins of the amusement park with him and his friends.

“Come on, Gabry,” Cira whines, dancing around me. I can almost feel the energy and excitement buzzing off her skin. We stand next to the Barrier that separates Vista from the ruins of the old city, the thick wooden wall keeping the dangers of the world out and us safely in. Already a few of the older kids have skimmed over the top, their feet a flash against the night sky. I rub my palms against my legs, my heart a thrum in my chest.

There are a thousand reasons why I don’t want to go with them into the ruins, not the least of which is that it’s forbidden. But there’s one reason I do want to take the risk. I glance past Cira to her brother and his eyes catch mine. I can’t stop the seep of heat crawling up my neck as I dart my gaze away, hoping he didn’t notice me looking and at the same time desperately wishing he did.

“Gabry?” he asks, his head tilted to the side. From his lips my name curls around my ears. An invitation.

Afraid of the tangle of words twisting around my own tongue, I swallow and place my hand against the thick wood of the Barrier. I’ve never been past it before. It’s against the rules to leave the town without permission and it’s also risky. While mostof the ruins are bordered by old fences from after the Return, Mudo can still get through them. They can still attack us.

“We shouldn’t,” I say, more to myself than to Cira or Catcher. Cira just rolls her eyes; she’s already jumping with desire to join the others. She grabs my arm with a barely repressed squeal.

“This is our chance,” she whispers to me. I don’t tell her what I’ve been thinking—that it’s our chance to get in trouble at best and I don’t want to think about what could happen at worst.

But she knows me well enough to read my thoughts. “No one’s been infected in years,” she says, trying to convince me. “Catcher and them go out there all the time. It’s totally safe.”

Safe—a relative term. A word my mother always uses with a hard edge to her voice.

Additional Thoughts: Delacorte has released new covers for both The Forest of Hands and Teeth (for the paperback version), and the current cover of The Dead-Tossed Waves is another replacement for an earlier model. I, for one, prefer the older covers. The new ones are still rather pretty, but more…commercial. I suppose that’s a good thing for a book, but those first covers are so hauntingly gorgeous! Any thoughts?

The Forest of Hands and Teeth – Hardcover v. Paperback

The Dead-Tossed Waves – Original v. Final

Also, make sure to stop by later today as we host a stop on the official blog tour for Carrie Ryan’s release!

Rating: 8 – Excellent

Reading Next: A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire


  • Cindy
    March 17, 2010 at 1:26 am

    There’s also the familiar YA syndrome of two dreamy dudes head-over-heels in love with the same girl, and you know how that song goes.

    Indeed. I am getting a bit bored with that new “requirement” in YA novels.

    Nonetheless I’m sure to read the DTW, the first book was one of my favorites last year. Thank your for that beautiful review !

  • KMont
    March 17, 2010 at 5:32 am

    Well, you know how I feel about the first book, but I’m still glad you liked this one so much. We could all use more reads that satisfy us like this one did you. 😉

  • Amanda Isabel
    March 17, 2010 at 5:34 am

    I can’t wait to check this one out!!

  • katiebabs
    March 17, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Interesting how in Dead Tossed Waves the zombies are called Mudo, while in Forest that are the Unconsecrated.

    Do we know who Gabry’s father is? Also in Forest, Mary mentioned her mother more than her father. Seems the males are the ones to suffer the most! LOL. I guess they don’t go surfing? 😉

    I also feel there is a deep underlying sense of feminism in Forest and what you have described in your review for Dead Tossed Waves, the same applies.

  • Akin
    March 17, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Im having trouble finishing the forest of hands and teeth. The love square btw Harry, Travis, Cass and Mary is just utterly ridiculous.

    I need to know, is there a requirement for YA books to have love triangles? I love the plot for Forest, but I keep having to read from Mary’s point of view and all she ever does is think about Travis and how wrong it is to be with Harry, and how she can’t be with Travis bcos of Cass, and how she doesn’t care, she’ll be with him anyway. Over and over and over again.

  • Thea
    March 17, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Cindy – Yep, it is a little bit annoying to see the dreaded love triangle rear its ugly head in YA novels. When it’s done well, it can be compelling stuff, but more often than not, it isn’t done well. In fact, it’s just so overdone now, I’m kind of jaded and prejudiced against the device when I see it. That said, even though the triangle-ish aspect to this book bothered me, I still found the book to be a strong one overall. Actually, what bothered me more than the triangle was the melodrama at the end of the book! But that way lies spoilers. In any case, for all its flaws, DTW is a damn good book, and I really hope you get a chance to read and enjoy it!

    KMont – Gaah, I’m sorry the first book didn’t work out for you dude. Would you be willing to give the second a try? I can’t remember what didn’t work for you in the first book 😳

    But yes, yay to satisfying reads!

    Amanda – Go for it 🙂 It’s out in stores now!

    KB – Yep, there are different terms for the zombies in both books. A little locational variation, if you will. And I can’t divulge into anything else because that way lies spoilers! You’ll be reading your own copy soon enough 😉

    And that’s an interesting point about feminism. I don’t think it’s an overt theme in these books, though a stronger case could be made in TFHT given the matriarchal type of society with The Sisterhood – but both books do have strong female leads. Well, strong in their own separate ways.

    I’m trying to keep spoilers at a minimum here, so please excuse the nebulous answers! 😆

    Akin – I hear you. And I do see where you are coming from. There is, unfortunately, a lot of the waffling in this second book too. BUT it really comes down to reader preferences, and what type of a reader you are, I suppose. I’m sure there are quite a few readers out there that *love* the triangle and how introspective Mary and Gabry are towards their emotions and desires. For me, personally, it’s a little annoying, but this is vastly outweighed by the strength of the story, the worldbuilding, and Carrie Ryan’s skill as an author.

    Granted, that’s just me 8)

  • KMont
    March 17, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Thea, I have to admit that this review makes book 2 so very tempting! Maybe one day. 🙂

  • Akin
    March 17, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Thea, I wonder why you guys gave this one an 8 and the first one a 9. What exactly changed? What did Carrie neglect to do in this book that lost her one point?

    Lol you guys are like the kirkus of the blogosphere – or Kirkus’ daughters, or something. I love how insightful and professional your reviews are.

  • Moonsanity
    March 17, 2010 at 11:33 am

    More books to add to my 72 TBR shelf. Sigh. 😈 The first cover of The Forest looks like River from Serenity/Firefly.

  • Danielle
    March 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm


    i agree, old covers are lovely, and fit the atmosphere so much better.

  • Karlie Jai
    March 17, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I do really really want to to read this book, but something is holding me back a little. I loved the first book, and was
    addicted most the way through, I was asking my work colleagues their hypothetical plans for a zombie apocalypse, the only few hours that I wasn’t reading it. However, the point at which Mary realised she didn’t really care for Travis anymore, really made me dislike her as a character, and the last few pages, she terrified me. She was so selfish, and thoughtless and cruel. Or at least, that’s the way I perceived her. I was hoping for closure on her shocking actions, but the book being from someone else’s POV may be a blessing in disguise. As I said the other book absorbed me, but I was
    pretty horrified with the way Mary’s personality went. : )

  • Amanda L
    April 2, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    The original cover for The Forest of Hands and Teeth is what caught my attention. The new one is ok, but I don’t think it stands out among all the other books on the shelf.

    (Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside are other books with new covers which do absolutely nothing for me!)

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    April 7, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    […] Book Reviews • Aimee at A Book Dork • Nicola at Back to Books • Sarah at LOL Shelver • Thea at The Book Smugglers • Liz B. at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy • The Compulsive […]

  • Rhiannon Hart
    April 9, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I LOVED this one. It actually had some genuine horror in it that I felt was lacking in FOHAT. I’m generally sick of love triangles but did quite enjoyed the Catcher/Elias/Gabry thing.

    As for the covers, I can’t help but think that the girl on the new PB version of FOHAT looks a little…trashy? knowing? kinda mean? Not how I pictured Mary at all.

  • Anonymous
    December 21, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Who is the Dad?

  • Travisfan22
    June 16, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    If Gabry (I’m assuming it’s her on the cover of DTW) is blonde and Harry and Mary are brunette she must be Mary and Travis’s daughter right? Travis was blonde too.

  • Book Review: The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan | The Book Smugglers
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