Quite belayed but still solid in my mind, I finally have the chance to post this review.
The Girl with All the Gifts came to my attention through a list of “to read before…” books, which I’m usually too late to get to. This time, I was right on time.
I read the blurb and only a couple of reviews – for fear of spoilers – before committing to it, and it still surprised me.
Melanie is a young girl, who’s somehow used to be greeted by Sergeant’s gun pointed at her head in the morning while other people strap her to her chair. She doesn’t mind it because she knows that she’s going to class. She likes going to class, especially when it’s “a Miss Justineau day”.
Melanie knows many things – she knows what the population of Birmingham is, she knows things about the rainforest, and all about Pandora and her box. What she doesn’t know is what Spring looks like or where her parents are or why miss J always looks said when Melanie talks about everything she wants to do when she grows up. She’s never been outside the base, but she dreams of going to Beacon, the largest city, not far away, one day. Only once she’s on her way to Beacon, it’s not exactly under the circumstances she’d envisioned.
Melanie and her classmates are all very bright, solving math problems and logical riddles, which is why they’ve never pressed their teachers or the Sergeant to go outside. Because there are hungries out there, and you don’t want the hungries to get you.
I’ve realised recently that every YA worth its salt has its crazy scientist in one way or another, especially when it comes to doctors. I was watching “The 100” while reading this book, and my mind kept wandering back to The Girl with All the Gifts any time Dr. Tsing was in the scene, if that means anything to you. It wouldn’t be much of a spoiler to tell you that Dr. Caldwell is that character – ruthless, driven, willing to give her life for science, but usually opting for sacrificing a bunch of other lives instead. Completely devoid of empathy for her subject, but ultimately fighting for the common good, Dr. Caldwell is a complicated character that you aaaalmost like but never actually root for. And at the same time you do, because you really need to know what makes those “hungries” tick and if there is a chance for humanity still.
I’m not big on zombie novels – and this isn’t one – but if I were, I’d wish more of them to be like this one. You have the monsters out for food – and you is food! – but you have ways to navigate them. You have a goal to which you’re racing, but you can’t go too fast or the monsters will get you. You have the extremely specific medical analysis of the situation, but you have no idea what to do about it. Melanie knows even less. But she learns. Fast. As she and a selected bunch of her… caretakers trudge along in search of hope and, ultimately, survival, Melanie learns more about herself and the outside world than she ever hoped – or wished – she would.
The end of the book, for me, came suddenly and right on time at the same time, so my hat goes off to M. R. Carey. The finale was seamless, thought out, suspenseful with a sense of serenity to it, a little sad but hopeful, and overall well executed. It was one of those books that I was sad to finish, but that also left a feeling of accomplishment behind. I would definitely recommend, to zombie-fans or not.