This book has recently been made into a film, but I didn’t actually know that when I started reading it. My friend told me once I was half way through and now I can remember seeing the trailer and I definitely did not want to see it! Empire called it a ‘zombie-ish apocalypse’. Absolutely not. Zombies terrify me, I couldn’t even watch Shaun of the Dead I was too scared.
So how did I end up reading it? Well, my friend from work popped it on my desk and said I might enjoy it. The cover calls it a thriller. Seemingly Vogue called it ‘Haunting, heartbreaking’. The blurb on the back doesn’t really give much away either. It’s one paragraph. It says that Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. That Sergeant Parks points his gun at her while two of his staff strap her into a wheelchair and that she jokes about biting them. I’ve obviously paraphrased, but that’s all the info you get. I had no idea what I was about to start reading when I picked up The Girl with all the Gifts by M R Carey.
It started quite slow, for me, with Carey introducing the reader to Melanie and her classmates, just a normal group of kids, only they aren’t exactly normal, but Carey only hints to that. And to Sergeant Parks, a military man with a horrific facial scar. To Miss Justineau, Melanie’s beloved teacher. And Dr Caldwell, a scientist investigating the children. Carey keeps you reading by drip feeding little nuggets of information, a sort of breadcrumb trail to follow, teasing the reader into a wanting to keep going, hinting that there is more to the story and if you keep reading you’ll find out. It was enough to keep my pages turning.
The trigger for the drama seems to happen all of a sudden and it’s violent, gory and tense (okay, scary. It was scary). It transpires that there is a virus infecting the human race, which turns people into ‘hungries’. Zombie-like creatures who eat uninfected humans. If you’re lucky enough to just be bitten by a hungry, then you’ll turn into one too.That’s how it spreads. Through saliva and blood. If they have the opportunity to make a meal out of you then they’ll eat you like an apple just leaving behind the core. I’m not even joking, that is literally a description used in the book.
Our four main characters have to try and restore order to the facility they had been living in before the ‘trigger event’ so that Caldwell can find a cure for the virus. I’m being deliberately vague as I don’t want to give too much away! They are also joined by Gallagher, a young recruit who was born into this way of life and has no memory of the world before the virus. Meaning that people had been living in fear and in the wake of it for approximately 20 years.
While reading I was reminded of The End of the World Running Club. A group of people heading off on a quest through a desolate, dead, apocalyptic world. I reviewed it as part of my Goodreads Reading Challenge post so if you’re interested click through for a read. I guess there is a formula for this genre, much the same as any genre, I guess. I’m just not sure that it’s for me.
The Girl with all the Gifts is definitely a page turner and the relationships developed between the characters were believable and sustained. I found the relationship between Melanie and Justineau quite difficult to define though. Sometimes it read like Melanie had a crush on her teacher, but then their closeness was portrayed as more of a mother/daughter relationship. I think the description of ‘heart warming’ and ‘tender’ on the back of the book is talking about their relationship and I have to say I found it neither. I think I wanted a definition that I could understand, but perhaps that wasn’t the intention. As you’ll read, if you do decide to read, Melanie doesn’t know of any other relationships so I guess she has nothing to relate her feelings to… I’m rambling now, I’ll move on.
Did I enjoy Girl with all the Gifts? Yes, I did. It was a page turner, for sure. I believed the back stories of all the characters and their actions as a result. I kept reading because of the breadcrumbs Carey left me at the start and the need to see how it was all going to end. It was definitely one of those books where you have absolutely no idea where the author is going to take the story, so I couldn’t say it was in any way predictable. Carey has written another book, which serves as a prequel to the Girl with all the Gifts and it’s called The Boy on the Bridge. So if you like it, then there’s more to keep you going! If you like zombies and stories about the apocalypse then I’m sure this will be the book for you. As for me, zombies are terrifying so I won’t be reading The Boy on the Bridge. Call me a wimp, I don’t care. This also means I’m not rushing out to watch the film… far too much of a wimp for that!