Mary doesn’t know a life that doesn’t involve the Unconsecrated (read: zombies). Mary doesn’t even know if there’s more life outside of her dreary existence in her village, but her heart tells her it’s so. She lives her life in a caged community run by a group of women called the Sisterhood, who only tell them that man’s hubris and his attempts to outwit God led to his downfall, but that they—the survivors—were spared to repopulate the earth. Then, the walls of the compound are breached by the Unconsecrated, forcing Mary and a few other survivors to move beyond their walls.
This story is told through Mary’s eyes. It’s well-written, but it took me forever to read this and not because I was busy. For me, this is the sort of book that can be depressing to read through. It’s just a knot of darkness. The religious oppression along with the situation they’re in just didn’t leave me feeling very hopeful for the characters.
Now, I enjoy dark stories, but this story just seemed to be bleak and not offer much else for readers to feel—if you don’t count exasperation at Mary’s selfishness, but I’m getting to that.
I don’t think I liked Mary much. I take that back. There were times I really liked Mary, but there were more times when I just wanted to scream at her, which might be an accurate portrayal of a teenager. Her selfishness seemed to be her main problem. I know that teenagers are supposed to be selfish and self-serving, but there were points in the story where I felt like even a selfish teenager would’ve opened their eyes and made better decisions than Mary.
She didn’t seem to care how dangerous her acts were, and being that she grew up in this dangerous world, she should’ve known better. She just wanted to do what “felt” right and take the others with her. I can see where Mary’s actions would appeal to teens, though, because they are in her shoes—sans zombies. She defies the adults who come off as manipulative and uncaring while trying to forge her own identity in her world. However, most of her actions were stupid and without real meaning, but through some miracle, she always made it through tough situations.
I did like the setup for the story, though. It was very basic, but while not particularly frightening, Ryan did a wonderful job of creating this world and making it feel so hopeless. The way she described the Unconsecrated’s relentlessness and how religion is used in a twisted way to keep the community under control could really make a reader feel cloistered along with the characters—proving you don’t need a million things happening to make a story move.
Overall, I enjoyed the prose, but Mary was too frustrating for me to truly like, making the story a frustrating read rather than an enjoyable one. However, if you’re looking for something dark and hopeless, this is it.