Title: The Dark and Hollow Places
Author: Carrie Ryan
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Teen/YA, Dystopian
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Annah has been living in the Dark City for years, waiting for Elias to return to her. She roams the City during the day, doing her best to fend for herself and stay alive. The scars up and down one side of her face and body make it a difficult to avoid attracting attention, but at the same time, they keep people at a distance. Finally, Annah decides that she has had enough. A long time ago, she and Elias left her sister Abigail in the Forest of Hands and Teeth after Abigail was injured. Annah has had to live with that guilt ever since, and she decides that it’s time to find her village and see if her sister survived.
The Dark and Hollow Places is the third book in Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth series, consisting of The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves. I really loved the first two books in this series, so I had high hopes for the third, though I didn’t really know where Ryan was planning on taking the series. After all, there was little worldbuilding left to do, and that was one of my favorite aspects of the first two novels.
I shouldn’t have worried – The Dark and Hollow Places was an excellent novel, full of the serious questions and deep realizations I have come to love from Carrie Ryan’s series. Annah is such a complicated, broken character. Because of her scars, she truly believes that she is ugly, and that no one will ever find her beautiful. She pushes people away because she doesn’t want to be hurt again like she was when Elias left her. Annah is just fine on her own and can take care of herself. When something starts to challenge this idea, and Annah begins to realize she does need to rely on others, she doesn’t know how to handle it.
Like the two books that came before it, The Dark and Hollow Places deals with serious issues. It is more visual and violent than the previous books because of the tools necessary for survival in a city; the previous two books have taken place in villages in the forest. As I mentioned before, the worldbuilding is pretty much finished by the time this book starts. All the reader has left to see is the Dark City. As a result, this book focuses much more on how people have chosen to live since the Return and the subsequent fall of the Protectorate. Specifically, the Recruiters, who were supposed to protect the population, use and abuse them, especially women. Annah is horrified by what she sees, at the same time she is not surprised. The horrors of what one human being will do to another for sport are put on display in this novel, and the results are not pretty.
I also loved the messages that were at the center of this novel – hope, love, and most of all, life. It’s so important to live the short time we have, especially for Annah, who is surrounded by the dead. Yet at the beginning of the book, she lives without any hope and in a deep state of despair, to the point where she feels like one of the Unconsecrated. She envies them, because at least they can’t feel pain like she can. I loved how central these positive themes were, especially when such a dark future was facing the characters in the book.
While The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves could have been read as companion novels, in any order, The Dark and Hollow Places is a definitive sequel to The Dead-Tossed Waves, and should be read as such in order to avoid spoilers. I’d definitely recommend reading all three books in order at this point. I do love how Carrie Ryan chooses to focus on different characters in each book. All of these books and their plotlines are connected, but it’s a wonderful way to keep everything fresh and new.
The Dark and Hollow Places was a great addition to what has become one of my favorite series being written today. Carrie Ryan does an excellent job incorporating important issues that speak to a universal audience, rather than only addressing problems specific to teenagers. I loved the “where do we go from here?” mentality of this novel, and I really hope there will be another book in the series, as I think that Carrie Ryan has a lot more she can do with the amazingly creative and creepy world that she has built.