Review Take Two: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Title: The Girl with All the Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
Genre: horror, dystopia
Series: none
Pages: 460
Published: June 6, 2014
Source: publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 5 out of 5


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 is a very special girl.

Emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is the most powerful and affecting thriller you will read this year.
Reviewed by Danielle

Have you ever read a book and knew, knew it would change you, irrevocably, before the end of the first chapter? It’s a rare and powerful thing to behold, but by the time Melanie said she wouldn’t bite, I knew I would never be able to forget her or The Girl With All The Gifts.

I want my readers to do me a favor. I’m going to keep this review vague, but this is the kind of book where everything is a potential spoiler. So don’t read this review. Instead, run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore and buy the book. Read this book, regardless of your usual preferences. I don’t read horror books. I don’t read thrillers. I don’t read zombie books. This is a five star, genre-defying experience.

Go now.

If you still need convincing, the writing is stupendous. Carey’s word choices sing. I’ve never highlighted so many passages in a fiction book, because I never want to forget lines like:

If the lad had killed the junkers himself, gutted them and made balloon animals out of their colons, Parks would still have done his best to put a positive spin on it.
It’s not that he’s the first writer to describe guts as balloon animals, but I’m awed by how descriptive one little sentence is and what it says of Sergeant Parks. And then there’s our first good glimpse of the villain:

Thin grey strings like shoelaces - hundreds of them - have exploded from the rat's body cavity and filled most of the interior space of the bottle, wrapped loosely around and around the little corpse as though the rat had decided to try to be an octopus and then hadn't known how to stop.

Take me now, I’m having a metaphorgasm.

But TGWATG isn’t just great writing, it asks a lot of deep, philosophical questions in an often overlooked genre. Who’s worse, the villain who’s totally up front about their villainy, the soldier who’s just following orders, or the teacher who raises a generation to think wrongly? At what point do the ends justify the means? Is it heroic or cowardice to become a martyr? There are no answers in the book, any more than there are answers in life, and I love it. Some of the characters’ decisions haunt me, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Speaking of characters, where else are you going to get a zombie novel where the scientist is the one obsessed with brains? More cleverness that slays me. The vast majority of the book is spent with a core group of five characters, each with individual verbal tics and thought patterns. They also change and grow through the book as sickness and fatigue beat them down, or revelations build them up.

TGWATG is amazing. It’s tense and scary while defying genre conventions. (But the baby carriage? There’s not enough “no” in the world.) It’s not perfect, though, and I wish some of the revelations in London had come earlier with more time to dwell on them. The scene with the shadows on the house felt derivative of Bradbury’s There Will Come Soft Rains, (though that could just be me.) An early plotline,the junkers chasing them was unresolved, and I wish it wasn’t. Still, I’m completely confident in giving The Girl With All the Gifts five stars and recommending it to horror, dystopian, sci-fi, or mythology fans or just people who can’t get enough of beautiful prose, like myself.


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