It’s hard to go to any bookstore without seeing a copy of The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey displayed prominently. While people always seem to be gushing about how good, and how well written it is, it’s hard to find much out about the book. There’s a good reason for this though – so much of this book is about the reveal, straight from the beginning. It’s hard to talk about what the book itself is about without feeling like you’re ruining something for people who haven’t read it. So, in order to give potential readers an idea of whether they may or may not want to read it, lets talk a little about some other stuff first.
M.R. Carey is the pen name for Mike Carey, who is an author who’s written a handful of novels, and has done work on tons of comics and graphic novels. So far, I haven’t actually read anything that he’s written besides TGwAtG – though I am familiar with several of the titles he’s worked on.
He worked on a few stories for the Sandman comics, as well as the graphic novelization of “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman.He did extensive work on Hellblazer (the series that the film Constantine was based off of), and Lucifer. He also wrote a screenplay adapted from The Girl with All the Gifts, called “She Who Brings Gifts”, which is currently in production.
One of the key differences, according the Carey, is that while the book centers largely around Melanie, it switches back and forth between 5 different perspectives. The film, however, will only follow Melanie.
Now, onto the book itself.
The Girl with All the Gifts is a horror novel, written in the third person multiple point of view. It’s well written, with a good story, that constantly keeps you guessing. Often times, when you start to wrap your head around the world that the characters live in, and you start to feel as though you have an idea of what exactly is going on, Carey almost always seems to hit you with a curve ball.
While I like stories that keep you guessing, I often find that people complain that stories like that “raise more questions than they answer”, which I’ve never actually understood that as a complaint. While it’s important that major plot points are tied up, and that other questions that are brought up get addressed in some manor, not every question needs to be answered entirely. Some questions can be answered satisfactorily in an indirect way – through the implications of other plot points, or even by being addressed as “I don’t know why. That’s just the way it is”.
Anyway, it’s moot, because this isn’t one of those stories. Pretty much any and every question that’s brought up in answered to a reasonable degree of satisfaction.
Now, onto the story itself. I won’t go too far into it, but if you don’t want the first couple of chapters of the the book, as well as the first few twists and/or turns to potentially be ruined for you, then don’t read on any further.
The story follows a young girl named Melanie, who initially seems like your average school child. She sits obediently in class, while a variety of teachers come and go, and teach them about various subjects. Some teachers are better than others, the best of all, in Melanie’s opinion, at least, is Ms. Justineau. Ms. Justineau is sweet, beautiful, and smart. She reads the children stories, and she brings in flowers, tree branches and plants – the sorts of things that the children have never seen before. Over time, you learn that the classroom that Melanie and her fellow students attend is somewhat more sinister, as every morning before class, men come into her room, point a gun at her, and strap her into a chair. They then wheel her and all of her classmates into the classroom, one at a time. When class is over, the same thing happens, but in reverse. The children are brought back to their rooms, and unstrapped, once again at gunpoint, and then locked there, where they stay all night, until the process begins again the next morning.
The Girl with All the Gifts is thrilling, scary, and stressful. The characters are real, believable people. They tug at your heartstrings, and even when you want to hate them, when you want something terrible to happen to them, you feel terrible when it eventually does.
I don’t have much bad to say about this book. At most, I could maybe say “I wish it wasn’t so depressing or hopeless at times”, but I don’t think I would even mean that. Based on the name, and the foreshadowing that happens early on, you know that it is not going to be a story with a happy middle. You know that things are going to seem hopeless.
Anywho, I give this book a 5/5. I really enjoyed it. It was a tough read at times, but well worth it.