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

The Girl with All the GiftsThe Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Genre: Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Zombie

Publisher: Orbit (January 2014)

Author Info:

Wendy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

“When your dream comes true, your true has moved. You’ve already stopped being the person who had the dreams so it feels more like a weird echo of something that already happened to you a long time ago.”

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I’m not sure what I thought this book was about when I heard about it and when my friends started praising it. The blurb describes a bright young girl named Melanie who is obviously trapped in some sort of horrible prison school. For what purpose? Some sort of Orwellian education? Why is she bound? Why are the guards so afraid of her?

The books begins with her point of view as the 10 year old girl describes a day in her life. It’s fairly typical. School days. Teachers she cares for. Some she does not. Subjects she craves, others not so much. But there are all sorts of little indications that something is not right with this school. Something is in fact terribly wrong for these horrid grown ups to treat children this way.

But somewhere along the way, once Carey has firmly sucked you in and made you care for Melanie, the author reveals that it is not the school that is wrong. It’s Melanie.

Spoiler warning from here on for those who wish to keep the mystery and just read the book. Also, gross nature stuff warning.

This is, effectively, a zombie story. A thinking, not-quite-breathing zombie story, which is fairly common these days. But what makes this truly frightening is that it could well come true. Horror stories are most frightening when they are firmly grounded in reality. And here is the reality upon which this story is based: Ophiocordyceps.

There isn’t an exceptional amount of blood and gore to this story and I would hope that, should this become a movie or TV series, the showrunners would strongly consider how much more horrific the potential of this happening is, as opposed to relying on shock horror. But my imagination, knowing what Mother Nature has done already, quite happily filled in the necessary grotesqueries as I read along.

Thankfully, all of that was balanced by a powerful story of survival at the end of the world. Melanie is an amazing character. It’s not easy to tell compelling and believable story through the eyes of a child and, perhaps if the story had been told entirely through her eyes, it would have been problematic, but Carey switches back and forth between several adult characters, each with their own stake in Melanie as both a human being and a test subject. The other characters and their feelings towards Melanie begin and grow as is to be expected, but that makes the storytelling no less compelling.

If you’re not a fan of horror, this isn’t for you. Worse, if you’re not a fan of bleak endings, then this is not for you. That is my other fear for an on screen version of this book. Hollywood has a penchant for finding some sort of happy ending, but this one, bittersweet as it is, needs to be told exactly as the frightening potential reality that it is…


17 Comments on “Book Review: The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey”

  1. I tore through this on New Year’s Day last year (cheery start to the year, but I could. not. put. it. down). I thought the book had a couple of loose ends left to set up a sequel until I got to that ending 😉 Mike Carey has confirmed they’ve made some changes for the film (shot in the UK last year), but is obv not mentioning the ending.


  2. This book was one of last year’s best discoveries, mostly because of the switch in perspective, the discovery that the apparent victims are instead the “monsters” – and that the so-called monsters are, after all, innocents. I hope, once it will be translated to screen, that they will keep the powerful images of a profoundly transformed world that made the group’s journey so enthralling. And I also hope they don’t change the ending: yes, Hollywood seems incapable of ending on a negative note, but someone must start to make some courageous move…


    • The visuals in my head were pretty squicky. I’m not sure I want to see what this looks like on the big screen, unless it’s in the hands of someone who can truly do something magical and macabre with it, rather than just gross for the shock value.


    • Good job on avoiding the spoilers! Just avoid the blurb of the book too and simply read it and let the story unfold. Going into this, I just knew that my friends liked it, so I plugged in the audiobook and sat back and enjoyed every second of it without knowing what to expect.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I went into this book knowing nothing about the plot, I just saw the good rating and the awesome cover/title. Best decision ever. I love the mystery aspect to it, and though the ending was bleak I thought it was perfectly fitting. I was actually quite satisfied by it!


  4. Pingback: Book Review: The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey | The BiblioSanctum

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