“It’s alright,” she says, weakly. “I won’t bite.”
The Girl With All The Gifts is a fresh take on the zombie genre. We follow Melanie, a zombie hybrid, on a truth seeking journey with her beloved teacher, a mean-spirited military sergeant, a cold-hearted scientist, and a young soldier. In this novel we encounter ‘hungries’ aka zombies, junkers (psychotic survivalists), and the hybrid children like Melanie. During their journey we will learn about how children like Melanie came to be and what that means for the fate of the world.
This novel is so unique, it is not something I have read before and it is so refreshing. The zombie genre is a very saturated market, but The Girl With All The Gifts nails it. This book is an entirely new perspective, the only book similar to this one is Warm Bodies, and it holds no comparison in my eyes. Having the perspective of a zombie hybrid, a character that could bridge the gap between zombies and humans is fascinating. And, while Melanie is a ‘monster’, she proves that sometimes monsters are more human than we could imagine.
M.R. Carey creates characters that you both love and love to hate. Melanie is such a sweet and lovable girl it’s impossible to hate her, and her savior, Miss Justineau is a total badass. I sat on the edge of my seat the entire time because I was afraid of what would happen to them.
But, none of the characters are perfect they know their limits. Miss Justineau is an excellent friend and teacher but she has her own secrets and her own flaws. There’s this quote where Melanie is describing Miss Justineau and it is perfect, it goes:
“Miss Justineau is red. Like blood. Like something about her is wounded, and not healing, and hurting her all the time.”
This is a great example, Carey has not created flawless god characters, he’s created regular people in extraordinary circumstances. It is more believable.
Melanie is a perfectly rounded character with the ultimate flaw, but Carey makes her into a normal child. She wants what every other child wants, to be loved, to be normal. But, Melanie is smart enough to know that she is a danger to the people she cares about and she is precautious beyond her years. Throughout the book she’s forced to wear a face mask to prevent her from infecting anyone and at one point when they’re putting the mask on she says:
“It’s looser than before,” the hungry kid says. “You should tighten it.”
I love how this illustrates Carey’s masterful way of creating an intelligent and caring character. Melanie feels very much like a child, a lot of authors mess up and either dumb down or make their children way too smart. Melanie has a genius level IQ as part of the story, but her actions are still those of a child.
Carey also uses this cool technique where he is essentially comparing Melanie to Pandora from Greek Mythology, but it’s not blatant. Melanie is obsessed with the Greek tale and it runs perfectly adjacent to Melanie’s story. This quote perfectly describes Melanie’s situation,
“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.”
It’s just so perfect and I’m impressed that Carey could use such a perfect analogy. It makes me wonder whether Pandora was the inspiration for Melanie or if it was something he found along the way.
This novel asks the question, what is humanity? And I think that Carey gives a complicated but concise answer. What makes someone human? We don’t exactly know but it’s almost like Carey is saying that children hold the answer. That the next generation will decide what makes us human. I say this because even the least lovable of characters in this novel seem to recognize at some point that Melanie isn’t just a “monster”, that she is something else entirely. A form of humanity that we don’t and can’t understand. The soldier even sympathizes with the monster children and he says,
“They’re just kids, and their childhood has probably been as big a load of shit as his was. In a perfect world, he would have been one of them.”
I like that Carey asks this big question, he also asks another huge question. What length will humans go to, to save themselves? The mean doctor says to Miss Justineau,
“It’s no exaggeration to say that our survival as a race might depend on our figuring out why the infection has taken a different course in these children–as opposed to its normal progression in the other ninety-nine point nine nine nine per cent of subjects.”
If humanities only chance at survival was through the experimentation of children, would we do it? And I think that Carey has the answer laid out for us. This novel isn’t just your run of the mill zombie novel, it asks questions, huge questions about what it means to be human. I like that it has such a massive amount of depth to it. I like coming away from a novel and having questions about myself and those around me. It made me think.
Carey orchestrates a beautiful story and wraps it up in a way that terrified me but gave me hope. Carey answers the questions, and they may not be the answers we want to hear. I loved it and I thought it was the perfect ending.
I give The Girl With All The Gifts a perfect 5/5. This is the kind of zombie novel I didn’t know that I needed. I highly recommend this if you love zombies and anything that questions what it means to be human.