A phenomenal entry into the zombie apocalypse genre, M.R Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts is a book for the ages. Carey brings to life a world which is so believable yet foreign; a fact which works wonderfully against the backdrop of the United Kingdom. The story line is masterfully intriguing and puzzling, making the reader stay at the edge of their seats.
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.
When they come for her, Sergeant 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.
Carey’s storytelling ability is one of the best I have seen in a while. Each feeling that the characters experience is infused into the narrative, making the reader also feel it. This is best exemplified in the opening chapters which give a trapped yet curious feeling. Like the characters, we have a certain amount of sympathy and denial over what they have to face. Carey employs perspective switch well, putting us into the thoughts of the full ensemble. This only increases the knowledge of who each character is and how they feel.
The story wouldn’t be the same without the ensemble cast of five. At the core is Melanie, a young girl who is as precocious and smart as any other. Melanie is so interesting because her circumstances are so unusual. We learn quickly that while she goes to class every day, she does so after being strapped to a wheelchair by a soldier. She doesn’t get a lunch in the cafeteria but instead has a weekly meal of grubs given to her. The great thing about this is that we have an inkling why but like Melanie herself, we want to judge on her actions rather than her circumstances. The other characters are no less interesting and we get to learn how they were before and after the apocalypse. There’s the scientist who is dedicated to finding a cure, the rookie soldier who ran away from a pregnant girlfriend, the sergeant in charge of the military side, and Melanie’s teacher. Carey makes some great plot decisions and evolves each of the characters amidst chaos.
To give away anymore of the plot would rob you of the amazing reading experience that is The Girl With All the Gifts. As someone who loves the zombie apocalypse subgenre, this novel has quickly become one of my favorites. I can imagine even newcomers to the subgenre enjoying it as long as they’re not afraid of zombies. With great storytelling, interesting characters, and plot which pushes and pulls towards an unforgettable ending, this book is a must read.