The Girl with All the Gifts

December 26, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads)

giftsThe Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

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I was thrilled to find out that M.R. Carey is the same person as Mike Carey, who has written, among other things, The Unwritten, one of my favorite comics series. Once I knew that, I expected a lot out of the book. I was both excited and apprehensive about that, because … well, high expectations and all that.

The weirdest thing about the book is how the publisher tried to distance the book from what it’s about: zombies. Had the book been written in such a way as to make this a surprise reveal halfway through the book, I’d understand, but by the end of the second chapter, it’s clear what’s going on. I get that the market is oversaturated with zombie novels right now, but the story’s strong enough to stand on its own, regardless of its type; why not just embrace it?

The second-weirdest thing about the book (and possibly the dumbest) is that they’re not called zombies in the book. Sure, fine, whatever, The Walking Dead did it, too, but what they’re called in this book are “Hungries”. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone coming up with this term, and then for it to be distinctive enough for it to stick. Aside from it sounding stupid, it doesn’t make sense from a narrative standpoint, either.

Luckily, these are the worst things about the book. Carey has a natural writing style, enough so that there’s nothing there to take you out of the story. The few times I was interrupted while reading, I had one of those story-drunk moments where I had to consciously shift from the book world back to the real world, I was so deeply into the story.

The main character of the story is Melanie, an intelligent ten-year-old girl who lives in an underground cell and is moved, strapped down in a wheelchair, to a classroom five days a week. The first act of the story is told from her perspective, so we get a look into her life, but we have to make some assumptions about her life and living conditions, since she doesn’t know as much as the other characters in the book. I love that kind of storytelling; it’s almost like a riddle, and I like to see how long it takes me to crack the code.

The other main characters wind up being one of the teachers, a sergeant, a scientist, and a soldier, and at the beginning, they’re all cliches. Carey excels at characterization, though, so they don’t stay that way. In fact, the character arc of the sergeant is fantastic, and might be my favorite part of the story. The second and third acts bring in perspectives from all these characters, and it helps to understand them better, so much so that we come to understand the characters who are supposed to be the antagonists. It’s well done, and strong.

I understand that the ending is polarizing among readers. Some love it, some hate it. I didn’t have a problem with it, namely because as I learned more about what caused the zombies, I didn’t see any other way to end the story. It also followed the main theme of the book, so I didn’t feel like I was cheated by it. On one hand, I understand why folks hated it; on the other hand, I don’t see that Carey had any way to get around it.

The Girl with All the Gifts is an actual original take on the zombie story. It’s hard enough to come up with an original story, period, and to see one in an overused genre is refreshing and exciting. I understand there’s a prequel/equel/sequel to the book, and I’m eager to see what else Carey can do with the idea. I just hope my expectations for that book (which are higher now than before) don’t ruin it for me.

Started: September 20, 2017
Finished: September 21, 2017

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