My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First of all, this cover is eye catching and definitely had me interested from the get-go. Second, this mysterious title is intriguing. Who is this girl? What are all these gifts she possesses?
I have to commend M.R. Carey on coming up with yet another word for zombies. Understandably, at this point the word “zombie” in itself should be avoided at all costs in zombie literature/movies/TV, but this new name is spot on. Zombies have plagued (see what I did there?) our airways lately, and although you may think zombies have had their allotted time in the spotlight, Carey has somehow managed to spin the situation while coming up with a few of his own original rules for his zombie-infested post-apocalyptic world. “Hungries” is how readers of The Girl With All the Gifts came to know the familiar violently dead creatures, but Carey’s rules about their movements and mannerisms are what made his world so uniquely satisfying. Carey’s premises are both logical and worth the read, avoiding many of the all too common clichés.
Another compliment I have to this novel is the voice of our narrator, Melanie, who is about 10 years old. Melanie is not your ordinary 10-year-old girl, although she would like to be. Captured in the wild several years before the book begins, she now lives on a military base and is one of several subjects being studied. In many ways she is extremely normal, craving attention, full of a desire for learning, and infatuated with her favorite schoolteacher, but it is her gifts that separate her from other kids her age. Her voice is paramount to the success of this story, because without it, it would just be another zombie text. Instead of giving us a huge infodump at the beginning of the book, Carey uses Melanie as a filter for his world, allowing us to only learn as she does. Like us, society outside of the military base is new to Melanie, which enables us to react according to Melanie’s reception alone.
Survival is usually the driving factor in a world full of zombies, but The Girl With All the Gifts manages to avoid that as well, focusing instead on scientific exploration and objectivity. He uses his other characters, a crazed over-involved scientist, a tough military official, and Melanie’s loving schoolteacher, to contrast one another on the subject of our connection to our work. He suggests that no one can come into an observation situation without being a little biased, our prior experiences affecting us whether we’re conscious of them or not. As you can imagine, a zombie apocalypse is full of death. The Walking Dead among others have shown us what it’s like to live with death, and The Girl With All the Gifts is no different in that respect. If there was anything this book taught me, it was that we are all victims of our experiences. Our past determines who we are more than most of us would like to admit, driving us to act out subconscious desires. While some of us are looking for redemption, others want to make a difference in the world, especially one as ugly as this. It wasn’t what it taught me about zombies that will stick with me; it was what I learned about how humans treat other humans that I’ll remember. Our perspective of the world has a lot to do with how we react to each and every situation, and often it is our lack of awareness of this perspective that causes us to not love other humans the way we are meant to.
All in all, Carey offers a refreshing change to a genre that has been bogged down with sameness.
Goodreads Rating: 3.91
Recommended for: Zombie Fans