The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

 M.R. Carey
Series: Standalone
Read: November 19th-25th
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: January 14th, 2014
Genre: dystopian, horror

In short: I did not expect to like a zombie book as much as I did this one. Beautifully written, and more introspective than blood-and-guts.

Goodreads: 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 Parks 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 favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

I’m not a big post-apocalyptic person, and I’m not a big zombie person. The Girl With All The Gifts does both, and made me love it. It’s definitely a surprisingly thought-provoking novel, but it doesn’t come without graphic descriptions of gore and violence, so watch out for that.


“Miss Justineau, what will happen when we’re grown up? Will the army still want to keep us, or will we go home to Beacon? […]”

Melanie is subject number one in an underground laboratory, one of about two dozen children who live in cells, move around strapped to wheelchairs, and do nothing but go to classes all day. She doesn’t mind, though; Melanie is precocious, and loves nothing more than her classes with Miss Justineau, who teaches them colourful mythology and fantastic stories. It’s easy to stop thinking about what’s happening outside. Hungries (basically zombies) have taken over most of the UK, and those few who have escaped the deadly fungus are savage and ruthless. But the army base where Melanie lives is attacked, and the inside world is no longer safe—for the children themselves are hungries, unable to control their desire for human flesh whenever they smell it. Miss Justineau, the sinister Dr Caldwell, and two army men escape the attack, taking Melanie with them reluctantly. As they travel through the ravaged country to Beacon, the last civilised settlement, they must face the facts. Is there any way that humans can survive?

The plot is a bit slow-moving at first, but it picks up quickly. The writing is very engaging, and Melanie’s eight-year-old perspective was actually really interesting to read. I had to regularly put this down because it got so intense, though.

Zombie-afflicted UK is not actually something out of a bad horror film; it’s terribly haunting. The hungries only hunt when they smell flesh, and remain frozen in place otherwise. Picture this: you’re walking through a small town, slowly, so you don’t arouse suspicion, hoping you put on enough e-blocker to conceal your scent, and you’re surrounded by an entire zombie horde frozen in place…

We get the perspectives of each person in the runaway pack: Melanie, her favourite teacher Miss Justineau, creepy lobotomy-happy Dr Caldwell, gruff leader Sergeant Parks, and rookie Private Gallagher. All of them are very three-dimensional and actually have their own feel. It sounds weird, but the main problem I have with multiple points of view is that they sometimes don’t feel as distinct as they should. The Girl With All The Gifts managed that ASOIAF-style: the chapters brought their own auras depending on the character. Melanie’s inquisitiveness, Caldwell’s clinical coldness, Miss Justineau’s matter-of-factness and what lies beneath…they all literally leapt off the page. Their dynamic was so interesting too. They all start off distrusting each other, and Parks insists on chaining Melanie up, but by the end they’re a whole new story. Caldwell is the closest this book comes to a villain, but her feverish need to save mankind makes it possible to empathise with her, even when she’s being absolutely horrifying. A+ for these characters.

I promise you, if you read this book for only one thing, it should be the ending. It absolutely blew me away. I sat back speechless for a few minutes. It is absolutely brilliant. Forget Warm Bodies, this deserves a movie just for that ending.

Even if you’re not typically into zombie books, you should give this one a go! Well-written characters, a creepy setting, and that brilliant ending all make The Girl With All The Girls a great read.


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