Book Review: The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey (2014)

March 2nd, 2015 12:19 pm by Kelly Garbato

Curse the children, for they are our future.

five out of five stars

NOT EVERY GIFT IS A BLESSING.

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.

The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

Every once in a while, I’m accused of providing too much information in my reviews: vague hints and sly winks, plot details, even outright spoilers. And while it’s true that my reviews tend to be wordy, I almost always try to avoid spoilers, and clearly mark them when they do appear. But I’m reluctant say much of anything here, for the journey into Melanie’s world – beyond that hinted at in the deliciously vague book description – is half the fun.

Suffice it to say that I loved The Girl With All the Gifts, even if I won’t count all the ways (not out loud, anyway). Carey manages to take a popular and well-worn genre and imbues it with new life (pun intended) through the addition of interesting details and unique twists – not the least of which is the titular “girl with all the gifts,” the preternaturally intelligent and physically adept Melanie – a sort of anti-superhero, if you will. In fluid and sometimes achingly beautiful prose, Carey imagines a dystopia in which the problem is part of the solution, and the scariest monsters lie buried in the hearts of men and women – humanity itself.

The story follows five MCs as they are preemptively forced from the confines of Melanie’s jail, to journey across a post-apocalyptic England. Carey does a wonderful job of capturing the individual voices of Melanie and her captors; no small feat given the breadth of their roles and personalities. There’s Melanie’s teacher/mother figure, a social worker named Helen Justineau; cold and calculating research scientist, Dr. Caroline Caldwell; career soldier, Sergeant Eddie Parks; and Private Kieran Gallagher, a green-behind-the-ears recruit who owes his continued survival to his mentor, the Sergeant. Together the unlikely quintet forge on, unwittingly headed toward a new phase in human evolution.

There’s also a bit of diversity in the form of Helen, a woman of color who’s described as the physical antithesis of Melanie: “Although Miss Justineau’s face stands out anyway because it’s such a wonderful, wonderful colour. It’s dark brown, like the wood of the trees in Melanie’s rainforest picture whose seeds only grow out of the ashes of a bushfire, or like the coffee that Miss Justineau pours out of her flask into her cup at break time. Except it’s darker and richer than either of those things, with lots of other colours mixed in, so there isn’t anything you can really compare it to. All you can say is that it’s as dark as Melanie’s skin is light.” (Holy foreshadowing, Batman!)

Fast-paced, creepy, and full of suspense, The Girl With All the Gifts is one hell of a read. I could almost kick myself for waiting so long to read it: first as the book made its journey across the pond, and then waiting for the price of the ebook to drop on Amazon. At $9.09 (Hachette November book sale!), it was worth every penny.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

 

Comments (May contain spoilers!)

Diversity: Of five MCs, three are girls/women; one is a woman of color: “Although Miss Justineau’s face stands out anyway because it’s such as wonderful, wonderful colour. It’s dark brown, like the wood of the trees in Melanie’s rainforest picture whose seeds only grow out of the ashes of a bushfire, or like the coffee that Miss Justineau pours out of her flask into her cup at break time. Except it’s darker and richer than either of those things, with lots of other colours mixed in, so there isn’t anything you can really compare it to. All you can say is that it’s as dark as Melanie’s skin is light.” Along with Melanie – the titular “girl with all the gifts” – Helen is one of the most significant characters.

 

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