The Dark and Hollow Places

cover image for The Dark and Hollow PlacesRyan, Carrie. (2011) The Dark and Hollow Places. New York, NY: Random House Children’s Books

Plot Summary:

In this final book of The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy, Gabry, Catcher, and Elias are joined by Annah, girl that Elias left behind in the ruins of New York City.  With the horde descending upon the city, death for all seems imminent, but the four friends find shelter in one of the last strongholds of the city, a fortified island defended by what is left of the government and armed forces.  The demands and cruelty of the corrupt and unsympathetic soldiers quickly become life threatening and the teens are forced to concoct a way to escape them as well.

Critical Evaluation:

None of the titles in this series are what you could call “joyful” or “full of light” but this final book takes bleakness to a whole new level.  The title for this book is especially apt, fitting Annah’s emotional turmoil, the state of society overall, and the literal conditions of the ruined city.  There is much food for thought to be found in Annah’s – and her companions’ – refusal to give up on humanity and the clever, creative, and desperate ways they manage to fight what was once upon a time a functioning government.

After my frustrations with the love triangle in the second book, I was especially gratified to discover that Annah’s longing for love and family clearly revolves around all that encompasses rather than simply romance in particular.  Annah not only learns to believe that she is worthy of love from a boy, she also creates a family with Catcher, Elias, and especially Gabry (in more ways than one).  The trust and affection between all of them plays a significant role in allowing them to escape from the totalitarian remnants of civilization.  It also, of course, is meant to act as counterpoint to the selfishness masquerading as pragmatism that is condoned and practiced by the men in control.

Zombie stories are really about society, and this final installment does a fantastic job of exploring morality of survival and sacrifice; by the end of the tale Annah not only lives through the reality that regimes perpetuate horrors as well as protect from them, she is also forced to acknowledge and accept her own mistakes – and the limits of her ability to prevent them.

Reader’s Annotation:

With the horde descending upon the city, death seems imminent for Annah and her friends, so they make one last desperate attempt to escape.

Author Information:




Booktalking Ideas:

This one would work well with a descriptive plot summary, bringing them up to and early, dramatic part of the book (like when the friends meet again on the bridge) and then leaving the rest for them to read.

Reading Level/Target Age:

4th grade/13-19

Possible Controversy:

Death, destruction, attempted rape, murder as sport – and that’s just the beginning.  Every bit of it is shown in order to present moral dilemmas though, and none of it comes across as exploitative.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

While I did not enjoy The Dead-Tossed Waves as much( and was annoyed at the switch to a dead looking and scantily clad girl on the cover) I did like The Forest of Hands and Teeth and figured I would give this a try.


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