I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Girl With All the Gifts by Mike Carey
Published: 2014 by Hachette
Genres: Horror/Gothic, Science Fiction
Source: the publisher
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The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey is not your average zombie story. It starts out from the perspective of Melanie, a little girl who is being raised in an institution. She spends most of her life strapped down and restrained, and doesn’t realize how unusual this is because all the kids she goes to school with are in a similar position. Melanie thinks she’s normal, but she’s not. As the story slowly progresses, we learn that she is part zombie and that her school is part of a research organization that’s studying zombie/human hybrids to try to find a cure. And (as per most zombie stories), the peace inside the facility is only temporary, and the big wide world awaits.
Melanie is a compelling character whom I quickly loved. She’s intelligent, spunky, and adaptable, and she doesn’t let her situation get the better of her. She’s a tragic figure, because throughout the story she’s just trying to be a normal person, and she has to come to terms with the fact that she’s not and never can be. She’s also not quite a zombie, because the usual zombies are mindless and dumb, but Melanie is self-aware. Her disease is both a blessing and a curse, and Melanie’s journey becomes one of self-acceptance as she starts to learn about who she is and why she is that way.
If Melanie would have remained the narrator for the entire book, I would have enjoyed the story a lot more. Most of the other characters (with the exception of Melanie’s teacher, Miss Justineau) are both flat and impossible to identify with. For example, Dr. Campbell is defined solely by her passion for her research and the chilling fact that she has no qualms experimenting on the zombie kids because she doesn’t see them as people, and Parks is defined by his survival instincts that have him freaking out about Melanie’s presence for most of the book. These characters all had the potential to be complex, but fell short as narrators. It would have been fine if they had been left as people Melanie encountered in her own story, which would have left more room for us to imagine their complexities, but it just didn’t work.
When I first picked up The Girl With All the Gifts, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I knew that it was a zombie story, but not much other than that. I was pleasantly surprised by the story despite the weakness of the point-of-view characters. I’d compare its tone to Justin Cronin’s The Passage based on the way that it uses science fiction elements to create plausible scenarios in which monsters usually relegated to horror blend with the modern world. I was particularly impressed with the book’s ending; it was powerful and just felt right. Overall, this one is worth reading.