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Book Review – The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

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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.

It’s going to be hard to write this review without being too spoilery. Because there’s a pretty major part to this story that you don’t know going in… You’ll either LOVE it or you’ll HATE it. But I refuse to wreck it for you. I personally am possibly the biggest wussy pants ever. Ghosts, zombies, axe murderers, spiders, sharks. You name it and I’ll lose sleep over it, so I have NO idea what on earth possessed me to buy this book. (Ok granted, it wasn’t exactly too clear from the description on Amazon what it was about exactly, but I still knew it was going to possibly be a bit scary… I just wasn’t prepared for HOW scary it actually was!) It sounded intriguing and different from my recent reads… I’m actually glad I didn’t read the reviews in this case because I can guarantee you, if I had there is no way I would’ve even attempted to read this book. No way ever in a million years. But now that I have read it and am sleeping at night again (ha!) I can honestly say that I would recommend it, although with a warning about needing to be brave! (Also I feel my most repeated phrases whilst reading this were: Nooo! Oh my god no! & WTF, ok seriously WTF!)

So the deal is (or as much of the deal as I can tell you) this story is set in a post apocalyptic world. Humanity is struggling to survive, which as you can imagine brings out the very extremes in people that are kept under lock and key in a functioning society… They are all trying to make their mark. Some are much more brutal in tactics than others, some are just trying to live another day. The little girl Melanie, whom the story is based around, is being held at a secure base outside the safety of the main human centre with other children like her, she seems so smart for a child, but also sad and lonely, not able to be a normal kid at all. I kid you not when I say your heart will break for her. She’s part of a bigger plan that she does not understand.

Now she’s ten years old, and she has skin like a princess in a fairy tale; skin as white as snow. So she knows that when she grows up she’ll be beautiful, with princes falling over themselves to climb her tower and rescue her.

You can probably guess from here, things must go awry… and they do very much so, which leaves us with not only a compelling terrifying story of this post apocalyptic world, but also a very intense story of the 5 main characters that have been thrown together in it. And I have to say that I was surprised, that in a book such as this (genre generalisations and all) that there could be such detailed, description character writing. The main characters that you follow through the story are very well fleshed out, (pun intended) they weren’t just one dimensional. It was this character writing, which for me made the story so much more than just a horror read. In fact, I think the main reason I actually kept reading once I realised very early on what I had gotten myself into, was that I was feeling very attached to Melanie. Which is strange really, and a testament to the writing, considering my feelings on the circumstances that surround her are not in the ‘like’ category, or even ‘tolerate’ category whatsoever.

The world in this book is one of those settings where the idea is SO foreign that it makes you feel sick just trying to imagine it. The author does a brilliant job depicting the ruin, torment and coldness of a doomed world. So many times I had to stop reading because it was just too much. The horror, the sickening scenes, the fear, the absolute feeling of despair. It was heavy going. Really heavy going. I could’ve seriously thrown up a few times. I actually don’t know what I was expecting at the end of this book? A Happily Ever After? Ha! For whatever reason I had in my head (I seriously do not know how I finished this) I could not stop reading, I HAD to know what happened at the end. The world was depending on the ending! And I was not disappointed, it was the ending, along with the character Melanie that were my favourite aspects of the book. You would never guess this ending, it wasn’t the obvious route. It was smart. It was heartbreaking. It was hopeful. It kept my brain ticking. It made me glad that I had made my way through the story. It was absolutely worth it. So, yes. Read this book! But make sure you have your big girl/boy knickers on….and maybe some spares. You’ll definitely need them. Good luck!

photo credit: Warren Fournier via photopin <a