Book Review: The Girl With all the Gifts by M.R. Carey

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December 03, 2015

And now, for something a little different (but not really...)! I read The Girl with all the Gifts on a whim back in August and it instantly became one of my favorite reads of the year. It was the first book I ever wrote a review for, so today, in honor of the r/books bookclub picking it for their readalong this month, I bring you a #TBT!

WARNING! This review contains spoilers!

(Originally published on August 05, 2015 @
I have realized over the course of these past few months trying to get back into the habit of reading that when I go into a book with little to no idea of what it is about, I end up enjoying it 10x more ("Duh!" says everyone with common sense) and this book is a perfect example of that. I picked it up on a whim at the library because nothing I had actually gone to look for was available and I had seen this one mentioned around a few times so I figured, why not? I read the first two chapters before deciding to check it out and I was immediately hooked, which was one of the many reasons why I liked it so much.

This book is interesting from the get go. It's narrated in third person and the POV shifts every once in awhile, but the first couple of chapters are from the point of view of the main character, a 10 year-old girl called Melanie. Melanie lives in a cell and every day, she gets strapped into a wheelchair and rolled into a classroom until lessons are over and back into her cell she goes. That is enough to pique your interest because you can't help but wonder why. Why does she live like that? Why is she so chill about it? Of course, you start making pretty good guesses from the start because it's so obvious, but you're still left with so many questions that even when they reveal the reason, you're already invested in these characters and want to find out EVERYTHING.

Another thing that I really enjoyed was that a quarter into the book, it all goes to shit. There is no dragging on of the plot until you're bored to tears, only to make interesting things happen when the book's about to end, which is pretty much the way most books and series are written these days: "Let's drag out these stories for as long as possible and sell them as a trilogy because reasons!" This book could have probably done that— I could tell you exactly where M.R. Carey could have cut this book to sell it in parts and call it a trilogy or a series or whatever and I'm SO glad he didn't. He tells a story in 400 pages and wraps up loose ends pretty nicely for the most part and you close the book at the end feeling satisfied (and then you go online and find that secret extra scene/epilogue and your satisfaction is short-lived).

And yes, okay (maybe spoiler ahead?) there's that part in the book halfway through where all they do is walk and walk and sleep and bicker, and you wonder, when are they getting to their destination? When will people start dying? (That might have just been me, though. I always root for some death when characters are on a journey) And some people might find that boring, but personally, I wasn't bothered by it because the slow pace of the plot gave way to a lot of character development. I liked finding out the driving forces behind Parks, Justineau, Gallagher and Caldwell. At the beginning, I was annoyed by these characters. Parks was just a hard-ass and Justineau was so stupid, how was she even a teacher! Gallagher was that character tagging along that you knew would die a pretty gruesome death eventually to prove a point and Caldwell was the token bitch because there always has to be one, right? I even felt like Justineau and Caldwell were like two sides of one person because I couldn't fathom two people having such extreme, opposite personalities. It all seemed very black and white to be taken seriously. As the book progressed, it became more obvious that they weren't being dense for no reason, they just happened to have different goals and purposes which happened to clash with one another.

(The flare, though? That was just plain dumb. Shame on you, Justineau!)

Of all that character development though, I think Parks' was my favorite. He goes from being this tough soldier guy who just wants to focus on doing his job, BUT THEN he gets stranded with a bunch of stupid civilians who do nothing but make his life harder. Instead of becoming a tyrant leader, though, and imposing his rules on the least experienced, he's willing (albeit begrudgingly!) to listen to their ideas and take their opinions into account before making decisions. It was refreshing that the main dude in charge wasn't a sexist asshole who forced everyone to follow his lead no questions asked because he knows better (you know the type). Even his relationship with Melanie progressed in a way that showed he wasn't the bad guy you expected from his first appearance, but just a human deeply affected by the Breakdown and afraid of the unknown.

And now, let's talk about Melanie. Oh, Melanie. Regardless of what she might be, Melanie was still just a 10-year old girl forced to grow up too fast. Sure, she's super smart and maybe shouldn't be called a kid at all, but her emotional maturity is still very childlike and it was painful watching her realize what she was and come to terms with it and keep it in control while also getting to see the world for the first time and not passing out from information overload. I've seen people call her a Mary Sue (which I can kinda see, because isn't she always so convenient to have around?), but I still believe her character was well written and developed and you can always pass those extraordinary features as a consequence of her condition if nothing else. Second gen hungries are part superheroes? Sure, I'll buy that.

But of course, this book isn't without flaws, both plot- and writing-wise. I mean,
am I really supposed to believe that first-gen hungries are having babies when 200 pages back you said they don't even notice or bother to make contact with each other? Or were these second-gen hungries spawning some other way not entirely explained in the book? Did I miss something? I read Caldwell's explanation a couple of times and I'm still confused! Also, does anyone care to explain the logistics of Miss Justineau's survival? And finally, I really enjoyed the big concepts and ideas used in this book, but all those big words felt a little like overkill sometimes.

Overall though, I really loved this book. I loved that I went in with no expectations and it still managed to surpass them. It wasn't your typical zombie story. It was fun and intriguing and kind of creepy, the kind of book you wanna read really fast to see how everything unfolds, but that you also don't want to finish because you're so immersed in the story, you don't want to let it go. Definitely in the top 5 of books I've read this year!

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