Annah’s life has been hard. Since leaving her twin sister Abigail in the Forest of Hands and Teeth when they were very young, Annah has survived the Horde overtaking the Dark City, a bad run-in with a pit of barbed wire, and the loss of her only companion Elias to the Recruiters. She has spent her life waiting for Elias to return, but all that changes when she meets Catcher, who is just as broken as she is. As the two fight to reunite with Elias and Abigail (Gabry), she must decide whether it is better to live in the broken world or to escape via death.
The third and final novel in Carrie Ryan’s solid, suspenseful zombie series is full of action and relentless pacing and will leave most fans very satisfied. Where Ryan’s second novel in the series faltered somewhat, this one redeems itself, because instead of focusing too much on a love triangle, The Dark and Hollow Places focuses on Annah and her desire to stay alive and be free. With the character of Annah, Ryan gets back to one of her strengths so exemplified in the first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth: a tough girl who is strong-willed, smart, and complex.
Ryan excels at creating characters whose pain is palpable. Both Catcher and Annah are people who are broken in some way because of what life has given them, and the fact that they are able to find solace in each other’s company is so clear and so well-written that I could almost feel it in the room with me. Annah is a girl who has suffered a great deal of loss and agony in her life, but she doesn’t let it define her, and she doesn’t give up, even when it seems there’s no chance for survival.
It is also worth noting that Ryan has a talent for creating a suspenseful atmosphere. Writing long sequences of action that are not tedious is difficult even in a skilled writer’s hands, and Ryan manages to create and sustain suspense throughout the book. Although the final third is undoubtedly more exciting than the beginning of the book, Ryan’s ability to build tension is commendable. I literally couldn’t put the book down after the halfway mark simply because I needed to find out what would happen next.
The juxtaposition between horror and violence with moments of love and happiness is done particularly well. Although this is perhaps the darkest book in the series (in more ways than one), it is also the one with the most hope and the most light. Some of the moments in this book are so beautiful that it almost hurts to think about them. That’s powerful writing, folks.
Highly, highly recommended to fans of Ryan’s previous works, as well as to fans of zombie stories, dystopian tales, and readers in general.
The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2011. Library copy.