Title: The Girl With All the Gifts
Author: M. R. Carey
Publisher: Orbit, June 19th 2014 (first published January 14th 2014)
Synopsis: 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.
If you’ve looked into this book, you’ll know that this is a zombie novel. That being said, I want to make a point to say The Girl With All the Gifts debunks any stereotypes you have of zombies. It is more of an introspective, philosophical book about what it means to be human and how being human might not necessarily make you one of the good guys. It’s not the kind of novel that focuses on a gang of characters who spend the narration running from zombies, called “hungries,” and staying alive. In the second half of the book, there is an element of that, but for the most part this is the story of Melanie (who proves to be a very special character, indeed).
Melanie is a young, intelligent girl who is seemingly full of life, curiosity, and the ability to form emotional attachments. At the heart of this story is Melanie’s relationship with her beloved teacher Miss Justineau. And, through the teacher’s stories and inspiration, it is also about Melanie’s quest for love and acceptance, as well as an understanding of who she is.
The focus on character in the first half of the novel is what really drew me into Melanie’s story. I was hooked from the very first chapter and grew sad when other perspectives came into the mix. The closeness to Melanie’s narrative is lost a little bit in this second half of the book, but my investment in her story kept me reading with fervor. The prose is of very high quality, powerful, direct descriptions, understated emotional scenes that drag you in, and violent action scenes that get the pulse racing.
The zombie science felt new and interesting despite my aversion to most technical language, and all the principal characters are well-developed with their own history, motivations, and aspirations. For fans of The Walking Dead, this element is similar. I recommend this book to fans of the television series or anyone looking for a refreshing character-driven narrative.
I both read and listened to this book on Audible. I highly recommend the audiobook for listeners who want to hear M.R. Carey’s descriptive prose read aloud.