Unexpected and deeply engaging, this book is a superbly written original masterpiece that will inspire.
This review is by guest reviewer Nyssa, a Masters of Research student at Macquarie University who specialises in genre fiction, gaming and the creative society. She is currently researching the role of the romantic zombie in Young Adult fiction. Nyssa blogs at nyssaharkness.wordpress.com and tweets as @vintagezombie.
Melanie’s life is defined by two rooms: her classroom, and her cell. She doesn’t know of anything else in life other than what she reads in books. Each morning, with a gun pointed at her, she is strapped into a wheelchair and taken to class. Communication with others is forbidden, and sometimes her classmates are taken away never to be seen again. While all her classmates are special, she is gifted.
The Girl With All The Gifts is quite hard to write about, given all the glorious spoilers that make this book such a beautiful creation. There is a mystery to be solved over the length of the work. You know that the situation Melanie is in is just wrong, locking up children and chaining them, but the limited point of view restricts you to Melanie at first, and she doesn’t question it. For her, the oddness comes from the classroom, where the texts she is given are old and the facts don’t quite match up with the teacher’s descriptions. The world M. R. Carey has created is intriguing because it’s so different from what we know.
The writing itself is very visual and makes every scene incredibly engaging, from the mundane to the action. There is a small cast of other point of view characters, but primarily the reader is restricted to seeing the world through the eyes of little Melanie. It’s quite jarring to see the world is wrong, but placed in a point of identification where that very wrongness is normal. While Miss Justineau, her favourite teacher, treats her with kindness, everyone else doesn’t. It’s particularly poignant in the first few pages where Melanie describes how she gets up every morning in her own cell, is strapped to a wheelchair that restricts all movement, and called ‘bastards’ or ‘abortions’.
The book is also quite insular in that there doesn’t seem to be as much dialogue as usual, but rather than distancing you from the story it sucks you straight into the emotions of the character and the world as they see it. Carey has a wonderful cast, with each character a mess of morals, full of complexity and detail. It doesn’t casually flip between characters either, but sticks to someone for a whole chapter which helps with feeling engaged with each different person. The chapters themselves are quite short, allowing for some breathing space in between the drama and tension.
Yay or nay?
Ultimately, this book is unexpected. It is deeply engaging with every reveal bringing another question. Carey has created a superbly written original masterpiece that will inspire.
Note: For the spoilerphobic, do not go to Goodreads!
Who might enjoy it: Readers looking for something unexpected
Who might not enjoy it: Readers who like a straightforward plot
An advance reading copy of this book was generously provided by Hachette Australia.