The Dead-Tossed Waves, by Carrie Ryan.

Or, in RoySpeak:  The Sea of Dead People in the Waves.

Gabry lives with her mother in Vista, a small Barrier town.  There, she’s always been sheltered from the larger world and mostly safe from the Mudo, though one of her mother’s main duties as the lighthouse keeper is to decapitate any zombies that wash ashore during high tide.  She’s comfortable in her town, she loves her mother and her friends.  She knows who she is, and where her life will lead.

[Movie Trailer Voice] But then one night, due to a single moment of rebellion, everything changes. [/Movie Trailer Voice]  Suddenly, all of her friends are dead, missing or imprisoned.  She discovers that everything she’s understood to be true… isn’t.  That not only is her entire life a lie, but that everything she understands about the world and everything she understands it to be… is wrong.

The Dead-Tossed Waves.

I was really looking forward to this book.  I was a huge, huge fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and I was looking forward to another story sent in the same world AS WELL AS some answers to the many, many questions that the first book raised.

On the day the book arrived — back in, well, a long time ago — I ripped the package open, tossed it (the package) over my shoulder, and started reading.  I made it ten pages in before I shut the book.

The next day, I tried again, with the same result.

Not a good sign.

Verdict, in brief:

For me?  No.  Just… no.  My reasons are below the cut and will contain spoilers.

For other readers?  It depends.  If Bella Swan’s self-loathing wasn’t an issue, and Zoey Redbird’s inability to focus on MORTAL DANGER because she’s so busy thinking about her love life wasn’t an issue, and their shared ability to attract every single straight male in the vicinity despite their equal-yet-different lamenesses wasn’t an issue, well, then you’re a leg up on me already.

First of all, I’d like to thank my Beloved and Treasured Little Sister so very much for bringing the author’s overuse of the word ‘scream’ to my attention.  While I haven’t read¹ her review in its entirety yet, that detail did jump out at me.  But I’ll see that ‘scream’ and raise her a ‘moan’, because holy cow, the word ‘moan’ got thrown around quite a lot in The Dead-Tossed Waves.

Now, granted, it was a book about zombies.  But.  The living people did more than enough moaning for… well, any self-respecting zombie horde.  Actually, the main character ALONE did an excessive amount of moaning (and chest-beating, back-of-hand-to-forehead swooning and woe-is-me-ing), but I’ll get to that.  I’m going to stick to the prose for a few minutes.

While I found the action sequences both effective and compelling, I found the downtime — and there was a lot of it — neither effective nor compelling.  Gabry tended toward descriptions that felt… Self-Consciously Literary, if that makes any sense.  Lines like:

“…his smile like the lighthouse beam, something to hold on to in an uncertain night.”  (pg6)


“Tears crowd my eyelids but they can’t blur the memories that ache inside me with such a sharp fierceness.” (pg28)

made me think of Anne Shirley’s Story Club — and especially, for some reason, that scene in Anne of the Island in which a college-aged Anne rediscovers the stories her younger self had written for the Story Club.  I can certainly imagine some readers — readers like a young Anne, precocious and dramatic and romantic — swooning over lines like that.  But for me, they seem unrealistic, easily mockable, and perfect fodder for a round of the Overly Dramatic Read-Aloud Game.

Moving on.

I continued to be interested by and in the world that Carrie Ryan has imagined.  I like how her characters attempt to explain artifacts from before the Return.  I was glad that she answered the Speedy Zombie Mystery that she introduced in the first book, and the fact that it was a Huge Mystery for the characters in the first book and Common Knowledge for the characters in this one was especially fun.  I was intrigued by the idea of pirates.  Pirates!  And while I thought the Soulers were complete idiots (despite Elias’ attempts to defend them), I suspect that if our world was actually overrun by zombies, groups like the Soulers would form.

But my biggest difficulty with the book — well beyond the writing — was that I LOATHED the protagonist.

LOATHED.  With every single fiber of my being, cell in my body, hair follicle and all ten toenails.

My logical side tried to defend her, but as usual, my gut overpowered my brain:

Action Logic Gut
Gabry goes along with her friends in sneaking over the Barrier to hang out in the abandoned amusement park.  Where there are zombies. No one has been infected in years, teenagers have a need to test the boundaries of their world (in this case, literal boundaries, OOOOoooo), and peer pressure is a strong force.  Oh, and they don’t have horror movies — or books like this — to serve as cautionary tales.  Then again, their cautionary tales are TRUE.  But these kids have heard the warnings a bazillion times, and haven’t ever really seen anything come of them — which is something, actually, that will probably resonate with real-life YAs. I don’t care.  The UTTER STUPIDITY of this action rivals any argument my brain can make.  It’s the reason I put the book down the first two times.  How can I be expected to care about characters that act like Stupid Horror Movie People who walk around saying, “Hello Zombies, I’m Asking For You To Eat Me”?
Gabry throws a hissy when Mary tells her The Secrets Of Her Past. Her understanding of her place the world, which has already taken a beating from What Went Down in the amusement park, is suddenly completely shattered.  And of course, she doesn’t know what Mary’s been through. I don’t care.  Mary went through a LOT OF CRAP in the first book, and she should get a pass.  Also, I like her more than Gabry, who is more dramatic than I ever was at my most dramatic, and BELIEVE ME, I could sling the drama.
Her hot/cold treatment of Elias.  An example from pg132:  “But I force these feelings down and try to remind myself that he’s a stranger.  That he turned me down when I needed him.  He doesn’t know anything about me and never will.” Um, she’s confused?  I don’t know.  I’ve got nothing here. THE GUY HAS SAVED HER LIFE APPROXIMATELY 47 TIMES AT THIS POINT, NOT TO MENTION ATTEMPTING TO SACRIFICE HIMSELF TO SAVE HER.  MAYBE SHE SHOULD GIVE HIM A BREAK.  I could handle it if she would EITHER act like a complete bit-ka OR want him to save her all of the time.  Not both.
Her interactions with Daniel.  Mainly, this from pg163:  “A part of me wonders if I could tell him the truth.  I want so badly to be able to trust someone and have them say that everything’s going to be okay.  I wonder if maybe I’m too suspicious of Daniel.  But his fingers bite into my wrist [my emphasis] and nothing in his expression betrays his emotions.” What she said, I guess? “Nothing in his expression…” Yeah, except that you were totally in danger of being raped back there.  DID YOU NOT NOTICE?  WHY ARE YOU SO STUPID???
Her inability to wrap her head around the whole zombie thing, despite having grown up in a world where they are not only common, but a huge threat at all times.

pg170:  “But then I think about Catcher and all my beliefs haze at the edges.  I can’t think of him like that; I refuse to accept that he could be like the other Mudo and that some part of him won’t remember me.”

It’s hard to apply Big World Logic to your own life. JUST DIE, PLEASE.

There was more, but I stopped taking notes, because the note-taking was making the 400+ pages seem even longer than they already were.  I haven’t disliked a narrator — or a character, even — this much in… well, I can’t remember ever disliking a character this much.  A character that I’m supposed to like and/or sympathize with, anyway.

There was, I felt, a real attempt to explore some Big Questions:  What Makes Us Human?  What Is Life?   But I didn’t feel that the storyline — or the struggles of the narrator to figure out her own answers to those questions — made for any decent opportunity to think them out.  Because, for me, the situations weren’t really gray areas.  Are zombies human?  No.  They’re zombies.  They used to be human, but now they aren’t.  Does that mean that it’s okay to cut their jaws off and keep them as pets?  Um, NO.  Killing them is best way of showing respect for the person that they used to be.  I just don’t see it as that complicated, and I didn’t feel that there was anything in the book to make me question that way of thinking.  And I really wasn’t impressed with Gabry’s Life = Survival, but Living = Love realization.  After that many pages, that much angst and battle and blood, sweat and tears, that was just a bit too trite for me.

Also.  I don’t understand how the zombie horde at the end was still kicking.  Because they’re dead, right?  And they’ve been dead, one would assume, since the Return.  And it’s been, like, GENERATIONS since the Return.  WOULDN’T THEY HAVE DECOMPOSED BY NOW?

I really don’t know if I’ll be up for a third installment.  I guess it’ll depend on who it’s about.  If there are pirates and no love interests and the miseryguts hand-wringing is toned down, well, maybe.


¹I like to keep my literary palate clean.  And I’ll read it right after I write this.


Book source:  Review copy from the publisher.


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10 Responses to The Dead-Tossed Waves, by Carrie Ryan.

  1. roygirltheyounger says:

    i admit, i appreciate that we now know the secrets of zombies water hibernation. or rather, not being around people hibernation. except, they get waterlogged, too, so that has to have some effect. so if they’re in the water and not around people they go slack and hibernate-y… but what happens if someone swims by… do they wake up in the water but are so waterlogged that the person just swims away?

    so yeah, the one good thing i had started to say about the book… died.

    but i can’t help but wonder… why don’t they infect animals? a zombie whale would be BOSS.

    wait, would a zombie whale get waterlogged?

  2. I knew they didn’t infect animals from the first book — there was a dog, right? I assume not the same dog as in this one — but that’s another question. If the zombies don’t affect animals, then why aren’t there animals, like, everywhere?

    But, yeah. Zombie whale = TOTALLY BOSS. And no, it wouldn’t get waterlogged. But what would it eat? Although, I guess that these zombies aren’t concerned with eating — they just want to Spread the Infection.

    I got the impression that it wasn’t too hard to get away from zombies in the water IF you weren’t dealing with a Breaker and IF you weren’t a wussypants crybaby like our fair heroine.

  3. HJ Harper says:

    Thank you so much for pinpointing so precisely all of the reasons I hated this book so much. I’m so glad someone else noticed. It really did suck, didn’t it? Gabry really is one of the most pathetic characters I’ve encountered in a long time.

    I hated the way she really just seemed to exist as a plot device, needing to be saved all the time. Even when it was the four of them on the path, she just had a bit of a sit while the two men did all the lighting of fires and such, despite the fact that she was perfectly healthy. She was probably in a swoon at the time.

    Not to mention that the object of her affections seemed to switch constantly based on whoever happened to be in front of her at the time. It just seems like a classic case of putting the wrong character as the main character – how much more interesting would this have been if Catcher was the MC (though with a better name)? Dealing with the fact that he was immune while his sister was dying, seeing the girl he liked falling for another guy, having the army after you.

    But no. Instead we get Gabry. Scream.

    • Except that if Catcher (I agree about the weak name, in part because a college friend’s then boyfriend used to call this device ‘The Catcher’, but I digress…) was the MC, then I’d have to hate him on general principle for being in lurrve with such a soppy, lameass girl.

      But, yeah — I’m all for Different Kinds of Narrators, but she was the pits. I’ve seen quite a lot of love triangles in The YA lately that play out that way, with the lady all swoony about whoever is in her line of sight. The worst offender, in my opinion, is Zoey Redbird, who I’d just love to push down a flight of stairs. I feel like I read one not all that long ago in which it actually worked, without being annoying, but I can’t remember what it was.

      You’re totally right about her acting as a plot device — it’s something I noticed while reading, but never put it into words. (Thanks for that!) Except for when she figured out the key to the forest and the brief moments when she attempted to Man Up (as it were), she only reacted to things, she never took action.

  4. beth says:

    Well, I’m glad I read this review because the worst part of Forest of Hands and Teeth was Mary and her self-centeredness (yes, our society is built on lies and people are being turned over to the zombies, but the real problem is I’m not sure if he really loves me (but wait, of course, everyone does!)). It sounds like Gaby is even worse.

  5. Natalie says:

    Ok, so this is like the fifth bad review I’ve read in the last two minutes and so I don’t really want to read the book. But no one seems to ever answer the question I really want to know in their reviews. What happens to the other characters that were alive at the end of FoHaT? That is the sole reason I want to read the sequel and it’s sounding like it’s not even worth it. Do they even mention what happened to Jed, or Cass and Jacob and Henry? Or is it just assumed they all died and no one cares? If I had those answers I could be content not even bothering with DTW, seeing as it seems like a book that makes you want to pull your hair out.

    • roygirltheyounger says:

      So major spoilage, but…


      TDTW is set in the future, and it’s about Mary’s daughter… Though you don’t find that out immediately. The amount you learn about the characters from TFoHaT is not much.

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