My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Before I read this, I thought zombies had run their course. I love them, but it seemed like everything had already been done. Huh. I was so wrong.
I was initially intrigued because the book is all about ten year old Melanie; her views on the world, her struggle to find her place in it. Yet a ten year old protagonist means a young adult audience, and is usually written in first person, but The Girl With All The Gifts was neither of those things, yet both.
Many of the concepts are adult – nazi-like lab experiments on children with no anaesthetic, discussions on the reproduction of zombies, the eating of a person alive and how that ‘food’ feels in your belly. Hawk, even the real-life existence of the cordyceps fungus of the ant world is not the stuff of young adult stories.
Yet so many of the concepts are childlike, or at least adolescent – smelling flowers in a field for the first time, spending a night outside in the relative unsafety alone, or lying about events to protect the deemed innocence in parental figures.
Melanie, too, is both – mature in her outlook and knowledge, yet childlike in her reactions and hopes (a little reminiscent of Data from Star Trek actually).
And while everything is distinctly written in third person, Carey encapsulated thoughts and emotions so well it may as well have been written in first.
Each character grows in harsh circumstances, each of them balance issues of trust and control, and each of them plumb their own depths in the process, sometimes surprising themselves with doing the ‘right’ thing and other times finding it wasn’t so ‘right’ after all. I will not give away the saddest and most complex of these issues, but as soon as I read this I cried and cursed and questioned right along with those involved –
She didn’t want to trouble him with this stuff when he’s dying, but she won’t lie to him after he’s asked her for the truth.
– and read the next five pages in a single breath.
This is a beautiful exploration of an ugly dystopian world, and exceeds all of my expectations of a zombie story.