I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Published by Orbit on June 10, 2014
Genres: Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Thriller
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Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her 'our little genius'. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.
M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts is amazing, but I kind of want to punch it in its book face right now. You see, The Girl with All the Gifts is a reviewer’s nightmare, because literally everything is a spoiler. I can either put everything in spoiler tags or be incredibly vague. The blurb covers the first 25 pages or something. I can review the first 25 pages. How wonderful and thrilling. What I’m going to do is spoil one fact in the body of the review, but it’s something I knew going in since it’s in the genre listing on Goodreads. Knowing this didn’t spoil my experience, so I feel safe revealing that one fact. If you want to bow out now, here’s the short version: The Girl with All the Gifts is scary as fuck and awesome as hell.
If The Girl with All the Gifts were a movie, I wouldn’t be able to watch it. Reading horror is no big deal to me, but I can’t watch it at all. Actually, no, reading certain things does scare me, and Carey managed that a few times. Carey has a knack for making descriptions visceral and visual, even for a reader like me who doesn’t tend to be visual. A couple of scenes had me shuddering. This book is intense and there’s a lot of gory stuff, as well as fast-paced tense bits. The gore is Carey’s best skill, though, I think. The icky, creepy scenes are not short. They linger and they’re full of detail. This might sound over the top, but I think it was completely necessary to sell his world and set the stakes.
Here’s the spoiler of sorts: The Girl with All the Gifts is set in a post-apocalyptic scenario where zombies are running rampant over all but the last vestiges of humanity. What humans are left are holed up in small compounds, surviving as best they can. One such compound houses the central character, Melanie, a young girl and a genius. She attends a rigorous school and lives for her encounters with her favorite teacher Miss Justineau (who I totally picture as Miss Honey from the Matilda movie). Life is harsh within the walls, but at least it’s life and they’re safe from the hungries outside. That’s right. Hungries. Even though The Girl with All the Gifts is futuristic, apparently humanity decided against the term zombie. Because reasons.
The explanation for the hungries is based on a real fungus, which is cool. That’s really enough for me, but I’m not scientific enough to poke holes in that aspect. What I will say is that I thought the plot of the book was really great. It went in some unexpected directions, and I liked the unrelenting darkness of the post-apocalyptic world. That’s one of the things that I can’t really find in YA, though I do keep trying. Humanity seems fucked and the reader’s desperately hoping that these few will make it, or at least most of them.
For the most part, I’m a big fan of the cast. Melanie’s a deep and clever girl, who’s introspection is charming and fascinating. Her consideration of ethics, based on Miss Justineau’s classes and her musings on the hungries, is really thought-provoking. Parks, who I thought would be a stereotype, develops depths and becomes one of my favorites, even though View Spoiler »I think it’s utter bullshit he fixed a generator trained scientists couldn’t. « Hide Spoiler. Caldwell and Justineau however serve as rather obvious foils, and, in service of this, both seem stuck. They represent different ideals and I feel like Caldwell becomes too stupidly evil and Justineau too unbelievably good. More shades of grey in both would have made them more compelling.
Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifs is for everyone who enjoys horror. It’s a good choice for fans of Joss Whedon’s horror offerings or Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, though not quite as good as those pieces of perfection.
View Spoiler »When you walk into that classroom, you think you’re talking to children. But you’re not, Helen. You’re talking to the thing that killed the children. « Hide Spoiler
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy: