Title: The Girl With All The Gifts
Series: The Girl With All The Gifts (Book One)
Author: M.R. Carey
Target Age Group: Adult
*Review contains spoilers
It’s like before the Breakdown people used to spend their whole lives making cocoons for themselves out of furniture and ornaments and books and toys and pictures and any kind of shit they could find. As though they hoped they’d be born out of the cocoon as something else.
I bought this book after I heard Josh from Beards and Books recommend it. Going into it, all I knew about the story was that it involved a post-apocalyptic world and the plot revolved around a special little girl and somehow included zombies. I have a guilty pleasure with stories with zombies. I actually haven’t read many zombie books but I always have been interested. Once the story got going, I had a better grasp of what the story entailed.
Its been 20 years since a fungus like species have invaded the human species and turned them into “hungries.” Once the species enters the human, the human looses control of their mind and the fungus seeks out nourishment which happens to be human flesh, which also spreads the fungus.
But there are anomalies. Hungries who have not been completely taken over by the fungus. They still crave and need nourishment through meat but they are not cationic. Our main character Melanie is one of these anomalies. She and others like her have been captured by the military and are treated as research subjects. As part of this research, they are taught lessons in a classroom environment (with their entire bodies being restrained of course). This is all normal to Melanie but she starts to wonder about the world outside. She only knows of the world from what her “teachers” tell her. One teacher she is especially fond of, Ms. Justineau. Melanie cares deeply about her and Ms. Justineau has a soft spot for Melanie.
This becomes obvious when Ms. Justineau saves Melanie from being dissected by a lead scientist. In turn, when hungries over take the military base, Melanie saves Ms. Justineau from being eaten by other hungries. The two are then rescued by Sargent Parks and another solider. We follow the crew as they figure out how to survive and figure out more about the fungus that has taken over humanity.
Plot and Setting
I think zombie plots are so interesting because an author can really get creative with the rules of their world. They can create an origin story of how the apocalypse happened and what “their” zombies characteristics are like. I personally really like the scientific take Carey takes for his world. It isn’t that zombies are “rising from the dead” or nothing is known about why people are zombies in the first place. The story offers pretty in depth explanation of what is happening and why.
I am confused about the conclusion the book draws about why Melanie and some other children are a sort of hybrid of human/hungry. It is said that they are the “new generation” of hungries. Does this mean they were born to hungries? If so, does that mean hungries fornicated? Or does it mean that any new baby that was born within the 20 years of the fungus taking over humans would be born with a mutated version or some sort immunity to the fungus? I have to conclude that it is the second case. But it still leaves so many questions (like how does an infant zombie/human survive on its ow?). Regardless, I thought it was a really complex take on the classic zombie plot.
There are 5 main characters that we see a lot during the book. The story really plays on morality. You start off hating Sergeant Parks because he treats Melanie like an animal (worse actually) but then we see him start to grow a heart and struggle with his feelings toward the girl. Then we learn that Ms. Justineau made some questionable decisions before “the Break Down.” We also see the obsessive mind of a scientist who still seeks notoriety despite the human species being virtually wiped out. Then there is the private who grew up in the Break Down and how he follows orders but has his own fears.
The author did a great job of connecting the reader to Melanie. You can’t help but to root for her and Ms. Justineau. By the time the book was over, I was really hoping Parks would make it out alive. I was happy to see Caldwell die though haha.
I felt like this had a great pace. I was constantly engaged and excited to hear what would happen next. I was really surprised with how much I liked it. The author made some great points about our society and how human lives, what our priorities are, and how we judge others. Theres definitely a hidden message amongst the blood and guts. I finished the book pretty quickly which shows me that 1.) I had the extra time and 2.) I really liked it.
Though I really liked the story and the interesting take on the zombie theme, theres still some plot holes for me. This didn’t deter me away from giving it 5 stars, but when I am reflecting on the book, I still have some questions. I am wondering why the two adult zombies that the crew run into (the one stuck in the building, singing a song, and the woman pushing a baby carriage) were not like regular hungries. The “new generation of hungries” explanation doesn’t account for them since they are not children.
I also would have loved to have more back story on our characters. It is eluded to that Parks had a daughter with someone because he starts talking about his life briefly before he is taken over by the pathogen/fungus/whatever it is and Melanie has to shoot him.
I know there is a prequel to the book (which I actually DNFed) but I know it doesn’t go into these characters at all which is a huge let down and part of the reason I did not finish the second book. I wonder if the author will write more in this series. Regardless, I was hooked on this book despite some confusion and I highly recommend it!