Book Review: The Girl With All The Gifts
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.
ashley | On a whim, I picked up The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey, thinking hey, what girl wouldn’t want to have all the gifts? But I very quickly realized that whatever this girl has, it isn’t really any gift that I envy. Spending days locked in a cell, being strapped to a wheelchair and transported to and from classrooms where she learns facts about a world that doesn’t exist anymore and then showering in a spray of chemicals only on Sundays and only after she’s finished up a big bowl of squirming grubs. Not my idea of a gift at all. What is happening here? My attention has been grabbed, I am hooked. I need to know what this place is and who or what these children are.
I was really into this book from the beginning. Starting off focusing on Melanie, a hungry who doesn’t really know she’s a hungry, was a really interesting perspective that drew me right in. Seeing how she and the other intelligent hungries were treated and the unique relationships that they were forming with their captors, along with the scientific study aspect, it was all very interesting.
And then it wasn’t. I’d say the first quarter was interesting; stuff was happening, things were being explored and explained and chaos was building, but then things slowed right down. The point was to focus on the human aspect of a crisis and character growth and building the relationships further between Melanie and other survivors, but it just got incredibly boring.
There was a very heavy science element, but only in theory, it was just talked about, not actually executed. There was a bit of background information on some of the survivors, but they were all basically just wandering and talking and I felt my attention span drifting. Thankfully things do eventually pick up again towards the end of the book. The scientist gets a hold of another sample to further her work. The vast emptiness of the land they are wandering isn’t so empty anymore. Things are moving along again and my interest is again at its peak.
There are tons of zombie-like post-apocalyptic stories out there and I’ve read a lot of them and the majority are the same. It’s hard to come up with a unique idea in that genre it seems, but Carey manages to do so. Even though I lost interest somewhere in the middle, I’m glad I pushed through it because the concept of the book, the beginning and the end were very clever and I quite enjoyed it.
The characters are broad examples of your average person. You have the military leader, the scientist, the moral compass, the coward and then the innocent, all thrown together in a motley crew masked by fear and ambition. And I really like Melanie, right from the start, but even more as the story developed and she grew as a person. Yes, a person, even if she actually, fully, wasn’t one.
The Girl With All The Gifts is a clear and extreme analysis of how these people adapt to and survive (or don’t!) the end of the world and a vicious, hungry enemy.
Available June 10, 2014.