Ryan, Carrie. The Dark and Hollow Places. Delacrote Books for Young Readers; March 22, 2011.

**I got some Carrie Ryan swag when I went to her book signing – I’ll pick a winner from whoever comments on this post!**

Similar books: I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells; Wither by Lauren DeStefano; Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis and Snippet
There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah’s world stopped that day and she’s been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn’t feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.

Except, Catcher has his own secrets — dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah’s longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah — can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?

“Ever wonder what you’d do if you knew you were going to die?”

“We’re all going to die eventually,” I tell her.

She smiles, more like a wince. “I mean if you knew when,” she clarifies. “If you only had a few days.” She inhales, sharp, and adds, “A few moments.”

I shake my head. It’s a lie, but I don’t want this woman to know me any better than she already does. Being her for her death–that’s already more intimacy than I’ve shared with anyone in years…

“Oh well,” she says, waving her dirty pipe in the air as if it could clear it all away. “Oh well,” she says again, barely a whisper.

The Review
I have a confession. I read this whole book thinking that Annah would die. I’m not going to spoil it and tell you who does die (and who doesn’t), but that is just evidence that Carrie Ryan took this book above and beyond her two other spectacular books and raised the stakes so high it was almost impossible to believe the heroine would survive. For the third and final book in the series, the story feels the same (yet different enough that it still felt original). The setting is a post-apocalyptic New York City, which I found absolutely fascinating and gave a new setting for zombies to attack. To be honest, I couldn’t put this book down and I think it had mostly to do with the strength of the protagonist, Annah (and those gorgeous prose).

Annah was my favorite character by far, though that might be because I just finished her book. It’s amazing how the heroine gets stronger in each of the books in this series. Annah, who’s character (like the city) is reflected in the title by being dark and hollow, is a broken person. Not just by the scars on the left side of her body, but because the boy she thought she loved left her. Throughout the story, we see Annah grow as a person: from a girl who thinks her scars define her as shattered, toa girl who sees those scars not as a representation of her broken nature, but as a representation of her strength and how she pieced herself back together. The character development was intriguing.

As with her other books, this story held a strong romantic thread line. While I didn’t feel the romance was as big in the story as it had been in the other books, I loved how unique this love was (just as Gabry’s was unique from Mary’s). It’s the story of two people who are broken, and not only fall in love, but heal of their brokeness as they strengthen each other. This was such an original–and deep–take on the romantic theme and really proved that Carrie Ryan is the queen of zombie romance stories!

Once again, I was surprised by the circular nature of the books, and as the series as a whole. For those who haven’t read one of these books yet, Carrie has this innate ability to end her story in such a similar scene as when she began it (though that doesn’t mean it’s predictable!). How her characters react to this same situation shows how the character has grown throughout the book. (I have to wonder how she does it, since she admitted at her signing she doesn’t outline before her draft.)

As the third in the series, Carrie Ryan resolves most of the issues from the previous stories and we continue to see the characters from her other stories have continued to grow. By the end, you find yourself asking more question about yourself than questions about the book: What would you do to survive? Are you strong enough? How would you handle similar situations?

But more than that, The Dark and Hollow Places gave me faith in a written series again. After cataloguing several series that have severely disappointed me (and my friends) with their final books, it was so refreshing to read something that not only stayed true to itself, but fulfilled my (very VERY high) reader expectations.

Also in this series: The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead Tossed Waves.
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sK3us21XFvE
Reader Age: Young Adult 14+

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