So seriously guys, don’t read this review. No spoilers here, but if you want to properly enjoy The Girl With All the Gifts, you will not go on Goodreads or Amazon or read ANYTHING about this book (except for the book blurb, if you really need to). Prepare to be mindblown. You will not be mindblown if you prep yourself for this book.
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her ‘our little genius’. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.
This is the first time that I refuse to write my own introduction for a book. I think even my tags and categories are giving away too much, and I’m telling you now that those genre tags on Goodreads ruined this book for me; I could have been completely shocked and mindblown had I not known anything other than that introductory blurb!
The Girl With All the Gifts has many aspects that make it such an engrossing and compelling read. First, the mystery behind the child protagonist: Melanie is an endearing character who is locked up in a cell everyday. Her devotion to Miss Justineau, one of her teachers, is so pure and adorable and makes you wonder why such a good girl can be treated so harshly.
The only problem with the days when Miss Justineau teaches is that the time goes by too quickly. Every second is so precious to Melanie that she doesn’t even blink; she just sits there wide-eyed, drinking in everything that Miss Justineau says, and memorising it so that she can play it back to herself later, in her cell. And whenever she can manage it, she asks Miss Justineau questions, because what she most likes to hear, and to remember, is Miss Justineau’s voice saying her name, Melanie, in that way that makes her feel like the most important person in the world.
Carey also adds an element of drama by incorporating third-person narratives from other important characters, such as Miss Justineau. What is an unknown to the young Melanie is a glaring fact to the older characters, and as the truths are revealed little by little, more narratives are included. This books feels like a large box that’s slowly being opened, because each page is littered with clues that are pertinent to the plot of the story.
I really like the title of this book and what it references (which is revealed near the beginning of the book), but I think most of this story left me very disturbed and shocked. My first notes after reading The Girl With All the Gifts were “I. DON’T. EVEN. KNOW. WHAAAAAT.” And because it feels like the meshing of a book that was mindblowing but OK and a book that I really liked (warning: kind-of-spoiler links!), I can’t say that I really, REALLY liked this book. The ending was logical but unexpected, and I guess I just don’t like these kinds of endings (since the aforementioned OK book had a similarly frustrating ending). With that said, this book is extremely well-crafted and a pleasure to read, despite my personal preferences.
What, you actually read this review? Please just go read the book!