Gabry lives in Vista, a gated city by the ocean. Near her city are the ruins of the old city where an amusement park still runs. The story begins with Gabry being dared by her best friend, Cira to go over the barrier and into the ruins of the old city. Gabry is afraid because there could be chances that Mudo - the zombies - are lurking in the ruins of the old city. But Cira's brother, Catcher, convinces Gabry to come over with him. Gabry, Cira, Catcher and some other friends explore the ruins of the amusement park, and they talk about the Dark City, which is a city a few week's away from Vista. The Dark City is where the government center is and it is a city full of tall towers and lots of people. Gabry and Catcher try to have a private moment together - Gabry has a crush on Catcher and he's finally reciprocating the feelings. Suddenly, a Breaker (a Mudo that has mutated to the next level of zombie, becoming faster and more deadly) breaks into the amusement park and attacks one of their friends. Catcher kills the Breaker but then the infected friend turns into a zombie and starts going after Catcher. Gabry tries to distract it but she doesn't know how to kill the thing that was once her friend. At the last moment, Catcher finishes the zombie off, though Gabry notices that he was bitten. Catcher tells her to run away and leave them - they are infected anyway. Heartbroken, Gabry runs back to the safety of the lighthouse where she and her mother live.
The next day there is a council meeting to decide what to do with the rule-breakers. Breaking the rule of crossing the barrier is a serious offense because everyone is afraid of the infection spreading inside Vista. The council vote that the infected will be left outside the barrier while the other rule-breakers will be stripped of their citizenship and sent to the Recruiters to serve for two years. The other rule-breakers will not be allowed to enter any Protected Zones, including the Dark City. Recruiters are usually people who volunteer to be part of the army of the confederate and in exchange have a place to live in the Dark City. Usually, each city must fill a quota of Recruiters in order to continue being part of the unified confederacy and enjoy protection and goods and services.
Gabry feels guilty because she should have been punished too if she hadn't run away. She visits Cira, who asks her to look for her brother, Catcher. Gabry is afraid of going back to the old city however she feels she must make up for running away so she agrees. Later that day, Gabry sees her Mother at work by the ocean-side. Her mother's job is to dispose of the Mudo that are washed ashore from the ocean before they wake up from their hibernation and wreak havoc in Vista. Gabry has a conversation with her Mother in which her Mother accidentally reveals that she had found Gabry when she came out of the Forest of Hands and Teeth. She finds it hard to forgive her Mother. Later that night, she sneaks out and goes to the old ruins via the ocean because the barrier is too guarded. When she lands on the other side, however, a wave of Mudo start chasing her. She is saved by a strange boy named Elias, who later on claims that he knows where Catcher is. Gabry thinks Elias is likely a scavenger or a person who lurks the edges of cities. Elias tells Gabry that Catcher is infected and may turn in a few days but he shows her where Catcher is hiding before disappearing. Gabry finds Catcher who tells her she mustn't return. Gabry is heartbroken but vows to be there for him until that day. When she leaves, Elias joins her again and says that when Catcher turns, he will have to kill him. Elias helps Gabry get back to Vista. Along the way, he tells her that he was once a Recruiter but left.
When Gabry gets back, she reconciles with her adopted mother. Her mother tells her that she means to return to the forest, to find out what happened to the people she traveled with and wants Gabry to come with her. Gabry is afraid and doesn't want to. That day, Gabry tells Cira that her brother is infected and will turn and Cira is full of hatred for Gabry. The next night when Gabry goes to see Catcher, she also encounters a group of Soulers, people who keep their infected loved ones nearby by chaining them and taking off their teeth so they can't bite and infect. The Soulers believe that to be infected is to become immortal and they even willingly sacrifice themselves to be bitten. Gabry is horrified and she sees that Elias is one of the Soulers. Gabry runs away but is followed by Elias. Back at the lighthouse, she encounters another older boy, Daniel, who is suspicious about why she is out late at night and wonders where her mother is and why the lighthouse isn't running as usual. Eventually, Gabry admits that she saw Soulers lingering in the ruins. Because of what she says, the Soulers are imprisoned in Vista - quarantined until the council decides what to do with them. The Soulers end up being killed because they throw themselves in the way of the militiamen who are trying to cull their chained zombies. Gabry is wracked with guilt over what she has done.
The next few days, Gabry is carefully watched by Daniel. She is unable to return to the old ruins to find Catcher or Elias. One day, the Recruiters finally arrive to take Cira and the other rule-breakers. During the festivities, Gabry plans on escaping to see if Catcher is alright. Unfortunately, she is caught by Daniel who reveals that he always knew Gabry was complicit and also broke the rules. He wants Gabry to marry him in exchange for his silence. Gabry kills Daniel and jumps over the wall to find Catcher. Gabry sees Catcher seemingly shuffling along like a Mudo and is heartbroken. Then, Elias appears and tells Gabry that Catcher is fine. Catcher and Gabry reunite - apparently Catcher is still infected but he is immune so the Mudo can't sense him and he won't be bitten by them. Gabry tells Catcher that his sister is doomed to become a Recruiter and Catcher wants to find some way to free her. Meanwhile, Elias reveals that he's not a Souler but he was just hanging around them because he's trying to find his sister. His sister had disappeared while he was a Recruiter on duty. Elias joined the Soulers because they are like nomads and roam everywhere and he figured it would be the best way to travel.
Elias promises to help Catcher and Gabry free Cira from the Council prison. They ring the alarm and while everyone is distracted thinking there is a breach, they try to break Cira free. When they get to the Councilhouse, however, they find that Cira has slit her wrists in despair. They still carry her until she is reunited with her brother. Catcher, Elias, Gabry and Cira decide they have no choice but to go into the Forest as Gabry can't turn back now since the village knows she killed Daniel. They are chased by Mudo through the Forest until they reach the gated path that Gabry's mother always talked about. They walk in the gated path for a while. During this time, Gabry is confused - she has feelings towards Elias but every she gives into those feelings, she feels immensely guilty at herself since she should be in love with Catcher. Meanwhile, Catcher, being infected, loves Gabry but can't do anything because he's afraid he'll infect her.
During a recon, Catcher finds out that the people from Vista - the Recruiters etc. are following them and will soon reach the gated path. Elias figures out that someone had seen Catcher with a Mudo, and the reason why the Recruiters are after them is because they want to get Catcher because he is immune and very rare but immensely useful. Usually the Recruiters will hold the immune's loved ones hostage to force the immunes to do their bidding. They continue on their journey through the gated paths. Elias reveals that he and his sister used to be Skinners in the Dark City - people that scavenge valuable items off of zombies and dead bodies. Again, there is a moment when she and Elias are really close but then Gabry pushes him away again. Later on, Gabry notices that Cira's self-inflicted wound is getting worse.
One night, Cira does the inexplicable and goes into the Forest. Catcher chases after her and takes her somewhere further along the path. Gabry and Elias follow them and see that Cira is feverish and the infection from her wound had worsened. They continue walking because they have no other choice. Eventually they come to a gated community where Gabry finds her Mother. Her mother introduces her to another man named Harry who has been living with her mother. When Harry sees Elias, he recognizes him. When Harry sees Gabry, he calls her by a different name - a name that sounds familiar. Elias runs away and Gabry follows. Elias tells her that in truth, he was searching not for his own sister but a girl who is Gabry's sister, Annah. Elias knew all along that Gabry might be someone related to Annah because they look alike and are in fact twins. Elias explains that when they were little kids, they were neighbors and that one day she fell and skinned her knee while they were secretly playing outside the fence of the village. Elias, being an impatient little boy wanted to leave Gabry behind to continue playing. After they played and returned to pick up Gabry, they found that she was gone. Elias and Gabry's twin sister ran away because they were afraid of what they had done.
One day Cira again escapes into the forest and Catcher goes after her. Before they can find her, however, there is news that the Recruiters are almost upon them. Cira becomes a Mudo and other Mudo attack the village and the Recruiters. Gabry and the others manage to escape. They make their way to the Dark City.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like that Carrie Ryan introduced the idea of the Soulers. It is a very interesting representation of the other facet of a zombie apocalypse - the part where people can't let go of their infected loved ones.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Gabry reunites with her Mother. It is a big relief that her Mother is still alive.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Gabry is not the typical brave, headstrong girl. I like that she's weak and scared yet she tries to survive in this horrible world.