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Review: The Girl with All The Gifts

03 October 2016
QUAD Duty Manager Daisy Leverington was captivated by M R Carey’s novel, The Girl with All the Gifts. Here is her review, first published in Standard Issue. You can see the film adaptation at QUAD from Friday 7th - Thursday 13th October.

Ten year old Melanie has an incredible IQ. She lives at Hotel Echo, a military base built to withstand the end of the world, which happened 20 years ago. Her bedroom door locks from the outside.

Her teacher Miss Justineau is our favourite teacher from primary school. The one who read your favourite book and helped you with your gloves. She and Melanie aren’t allowed to be friends, what with Melanie being a ‘Hungry’ and all that; but the end of civilisation didn’t take away the human need to group, to find safety in numbers.

Along with a sergeant from the base, a young recruit with a gun and a trigger-happy doctor, the pair find themselves on a well-worn road trip to find safety.

M R Carey is new to the world of science fiction novels, his huge success as a comic and graphic novelist is evident in his sheer joy in building a landscape for his characters to play in.

Melanie’s mind, her bedroom, the base, and finally the outside world are drip fed as much to her as they are to us, creating an empathy between us and this strange little girl who knows only marginally more than we do.

The plot can seem familiar with its ragtag bunch of end-of-the-world survivors, and there are parallels with season two of The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later. This isn’t a zombie story or a horror novel or a sci-fi brain-melter though; it is a very human tale of love.

The Girl with all the Gifts explores who we are when we have nothing. Melanie may well have all the gifts, but having everything isn’t half as much fun when you’ve got no one to play with.

It took me a couple of months to finish the book thanks to a busy work/toddler balance, but the stolen few minutes here and there were enough to entirely transport me into the story.

A week after finishing it, the characters still seem very real and immediate, and I kinda miss them. Billed as a thriller, found in the science fiction section and set in a horror film landscape, The Girl with all the Gifts is utterly superb, whatever your tastes.

I give it eight Daisies out of Leverington.