The Girl with All the Gifts – M.R. Carey

About the Book


Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks 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 is a very special girl.

Emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is the most powerful and affecting thriller you will read this year.

460 pages (paperback)
Published on June 19, 2014
Published by Orbit
Author’s website 

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

The Girl with All the Gifts was one of my most anticipated reads, but it really didn’t end up being what I expected it to be. I think a lot of people will go into this book expecting something totally different than what they get. Usually that ends up being a strike against the book itself, but in this case the surprise that I got was fantastic, and the fact that the book wasn’t what I expected it to be made me love it even more.

This is one of those books where I think knowing almost nothing about it will make the impact of it that much more profound. Due to that, the book unfolds slowly, but the writing is tight enough to really pull readers in despite that. In fact, Carey’s writing is so flowing and absorbing that reading about the people is just as interesting as reading the plot. You readers know that that’s not always the case.

I think enough has been said about the novel to let most potential readers know that this book focuses on zombies. Along with the zombie theme, you get most things you’d expect from a zombie novel. A ton of uncertainty, and plenty of social upheavals. You have the powerful people, and the downtrodden people, and the people who are completely misunderstood. You also have a lot of violence.

So yes, in The Girl with All the Gifts you have plenty of zombie-licious qualities that you’d expect from any novel featuring the undead.  However, if you know anything about me, you know that I really, really don’t like zombies. I’m more interested in flesh-eating cockroaches from planet Zormg than I am interested in Zombies. It definitely wasn’t the zombies or the slightly predictable social structure that made this book work so well for me.

For a zombie novel, The Girl with All the Gifts is surprisingly human, and that’s why it works so well. These aren’t just mindless killers looking to eat people, often times the humans are just as bad as the zombies. In this way, Carey evens the playing field and really makes all of his characters just about as moral and real as all the others. I sympathized just as much with Melanie and her ilk, as I did with some of the other primary players in the book, and I hated some of the humans just as much, if not more, than I hated the dangers that they faced the the people responsible for them.

The post apocalyptic world was compelling, and that’s not something that I think about post apocalyptic worlds very often. The way that Carey mirthlessly evens out the playing field makes the world that much more absorbing and real. It also makes this book a lot more psychological than I’d originally expected. When you can sympathize and feel deeply for characters on both sides of the line, and when the author is subtlety and ruthlessly blurring that line, the book has a way with getting under your skin.

The plot is fairly quick paced, which is helped by the fact that the action is nicely balanced between internal revelations and decisions and external situations. Like I said above, it is just as easy to get involved in the characters as the situations that are taking part in the world around them, and the slow meticulous way that Carey reveals important bits of information helps.

The Girl with All the Gifts surprised me, not just because it’s not what I expected it to be, but because I never thought I’d be unable to put down a zombie novel. Carey has this way with revealing information that kept me hooked, and humanizing characters I thought were beyond redemption. The plot is fast and the characters are addicting. In fact, this book worked all around. It wasn’t what I expected, but I’m glad.

I have a hard time with thriller and horror novels. Most of the time I struggle with them because they are too surface level and not enough depth. The Girl with All the Gifts doesn’t struggle with that. This novel is emotionally jarring – surprisingly so. Carey not only spins an interesting tale, but he keeps readers thinking, questioning, and deliciously confused as he does so. That’s why I loved this book so much – it has an emotional punch that really jarred my soul.

Give this one a try. You’ll love it. I promise.


5/5 stars

2 Responses

  • I wanted to read this book. Then I discovered it had zombies, and the loud phobic part of my brain shouted at me to stay far far away, that I didn’t need another bout of nightmares and anxiety. But between this review and another that I saw, I’ve started to wonder if reading it might not actually be somewhat therapeutic for me, given that my zombie nightmares have taken a turn from running away from a mindless violent horde to suddenly finding out that I’m actually one of them and struggling to come to grips with it.

    Kind of even odds as to whether I’ll actually get up the courage to try it, though. Nightmares that wake me up crying are hard enough to deal with when there’s somebody else in the apartment to calm me down, but when I’m the only one here…

  • Okay, critical mass reached! Thanks for the review. It’s funny how – for me, at least – I look at reviews, and even if they’re positive, that doesn’t mean I’ll do anything about it, but then… I start seeing the same book popping up again and again, and pretty soon it works its way into my brain and I start being like “huh… I guess… I want to read it!”

    It was that way with The Goblin Emperor, too, though part of it was starting to see Katherine Addison guest posting, so the book started to be on my mental radar. I guess… advertising works!

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