The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Genre: Adult horror
Publisher: Orbit Books
Release date: June 10 2014
Source: e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley
What she thinks is: this could have been me. Why not? A real girl, in a real house, with a mother and a father and a brother and a sister and an aunt and an uncle and a nephew and a niece and a cousin and all those other words for the map of people who love each other and stay together. The map called family.
Growing up and growing old. Playing. Exploring. Like Pooh and Piglet. And then like the Famous Five. And then like Heidi and Ann of Green Gables. And then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what’s inside is good or bad. Because it’s both. Everything is always both.
But you have to open it to find that out.
What a wonderful decision it was to read this book, which is now high on my list of 2014 favorites. There are so many things I’d like to tell you about The Girl With All The Gifts, but I don’t want to give away too much, because I want you to experience the surprises of the story for yourself. Luckily, the blurb doesn’t tell you much, but I sort of feel as if this is a hindrance, because as readers, sometimes we need to know at least a little of what we’re in for. So I’m giving it to you straight: this is a zombie story. I’m not going to tell you much else about the plot, but just in case you’re wondering, this is an awesomely wonderful, violent, terrifying, fascinating, beautiful and heartbreaking zombie story. You should read it if you love zombies. And you should read it even if you don’t love zombies, because it’s full of other great stuff as well. So in lieu of a normal book review, I’ve come up with my top ten reasons why you should drop everything and read The Girl With All The Gifts:
1. It’s a nail-biter of a survival story. Who knew? You certainly can’t tell that from the cover. This is a down-and-dirty survival story, no question about it. It will make you jump at shadows and hide under your covers. Somehow Carey combines thrilling action with terrible, creeping horror and it all works.
2. These are not your mother’s zombies. Carey takes zombies to an entirely new and mind-numbing level of scary. And he doesn’t stop there. These zombies are much more than the shambling undead, and you won’t be able to guess what they are until it smacks you in the face.
3. Fewer characters make for a better story. Instead of bogging down the reader with a cast of thousands (à la Stephen King, for example), Carey gives us five main characters and makes us care for them deeply. Each one, even the “bad guy,” becomes critical to the emotional development of the story. The action is fast and furious, but in this book, character is king.
4. There already exists, in the scientific world, the capacity for zombies to exist. Yes, folks, Carey delves into the scientific reasons behind his zombies, and he makes us believe them completely. I’m not a scientist myself, but I am now convinced (whether it’s true or not) that something like this could actually happen.
5. A zombie story can make you cry. Or sob, actually. Carey’s unassuming and spare writing style evoked heart-wrenching emotions. I grew to love and understand these characters so much, and each poignant moment snuck up on me. Tears, people, tears.
6. You’ll never take your childhood for granted again. Through Melanie’s eyes, you will experience the wonders of the world for the first time. Melanie is an innocent—and yet she’s not. Her wide-eyed appreciation of everything reminded me of my kids when they were little. Melanie’s entire world is built on the stories that Miss Justineau has told her. When things change, her world view must change as well. It’s a bit heartbreaking.
7. Zombies are violent, period. This story is no different. There are some spectacular gross-out scenes that rival The Walking Dead. Don’t let the innocent-looking cover fool you. Be prepared, people. That’s all I’m sayin’.
8. This story takes place in England. I didn’t know this when I started reading, and when I finally caught on it threw me a little. British zombies, yes, they are now my favorite!
9. The POV changes from character to character, and that’s a good thing. That’s how we get to know each one of them. You want to be inside each of their heads. It’s crucial to the story’s overall impact. To you naysayers who don’t like this form of storytelling, get over it! This time it works.
10. Oh hell yes, this would make an awesome movie. I hate turning books into movies as I’m reading them, but this one is so cinematic and perfectly plotted and paced, that the movie version unfolded in my mind unbidden as I was reading. (Oh, did I mention the author also writes screenplays?)
Have I convinced you? I hope so. This is storytelling at its finest, and I can’t wait to read what Mr. Carey comes up with next. I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes, quotes that won’t mean anything to you until you read the book:
“From now on, every day will be a Miss Justineau day.”
“You’re my bread when I’m hungry.”
That is all. Many thanks to Orbit for supplying a review copy. Quotes used in this review came from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version.
You can find The Girl with All the Gifts here: