Sunday, August 7, 2022

REVIEW: The Girl With All the Gifts (book) by M.R. Carey

The Girl With All the Gifts is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/zombie novel. I bought my copy used.


Content warning for this book: descriptions of dismembered kids, people and at least one cat being eaten while still alive, and probably other stuff I'm forgetting.

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell for the two men who will come to take her to class - one to aim a gun at her and one to tighten her restraints. It's the only life Melanie and her classmates have ever known. Their teachers change regularly, and some are better than others - Melanie most looks forward to Miss Justineau, because her classes are always interesting and wonderful. She reads the children stories and teaches them Greek mythology.

One day, however, Melanie's entire world changes, and suddenly she, Miss Justineau, Dr. Caldwell, Sergeant Parks, and Private Gallagher are out in the wider world, fighting for their lives and trying to make it to safety. Miss Justineau wants to keep Melanie safe, while Dr. Caldwell has other plans. Gradually, Melanie learns more about herself and the world she lives in.

I wasn't expecting to finish this is a weekend, but once I started reading it was hard to stop. I wanted to know how things worked out for Melanie and Miss Justineau. Eventually, Parks and Gallagher grew on me as well. Dr. Caldwell, not so much.

I don't know that what Melanie is is necessarily a spoiler, although I treated it like one in my description. Still, Melanie's average week was laid out first thing, and it included the detail that she and the other children were only fed one meal a week, a bowl of grubs, and seemed to be doing fine, considering. That was clearly not normal. And since this is a zombie book (called "hungries" here), it wasn't hard to figure out what Melanie and the other kids probably were. The bigger question, which Dr. Caldwell was trying to answer, was why Melanie and her classmates were so different from average zombies, which tended not to move or do anything unless they'd zeroed in on a potential meal.

The book alternated between multiple POVs - Melanie, Miss Justineau, Parks, Gallagher, and Dr. Caldwell all got some time, although Melanie, Parks, and Miss Justineau's POVs were most frequent. Melanie basically worshiped Miss Justineau. Not surprising, considering she was the only adult who treated her properly like a child and showed her any affection. Miss Justineau, purely through Melanie's eyes, would have been perfect, so the sections from Miss Justineau's POV added a bit more to her character and made her reaction at the end more believable. She cared for Melanie because she saw her as a child rather than as a monster, but the care she gave Melanie and the other children was also a form of atonement.

This was an addictive read with a gut punch of an ending. At the same time, I don't feel all that compelled to seek out the other works Carey set in the same world. This book was enough all on its own.

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