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The Girl With All the Gifts Kindle Edition
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|Length: 420 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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"The Summer Children" by Dot Hutchison
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Sorry to go on and on about this, but I don’t want the odd choice for the synopsis to discourage anyone from reading the book. Because ALL of you should want to read The Girl with All the Gifts, and I’m going to do my best to tell you why. I’m going to keep it vague, because you need to discover the secrets of the book for yourself.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic society in the U.K. Melanie and other children attend school classes, which seems normal enough on the surface, but it soon become apparent that something is not quite right, both with the children and with this school. We get hints of the nature of these differences early on, but it takes some time to learn what caused the apocalypse and how Melanie’s world reached this point.
Melanie has what could be called a childhood crush on her favorite teacher, Miss Justineau. Miss Justineau sees something in Melanie that stands out from the other children, and she can’t help responding to Melanie’s adoration, even though she tries to keep an emotional distance. Miss Justineau differs greatly from the other adults in Melanie’s life who treat her with apathy, at best, and shocking cruelty, at worst. It’s not hard to see why Melanie feels such affection for her teacher. The scenes between Melanie and Miss Justineau are heat-breaking. Melanie craves physical and emotional affection, just like every child deserves. But Miss Justineau can only do so much without risking her life and Melanie’s.
The Girl with All the Gifts starts out so strongly, and I thought that there was no way the story could maintain this pace. I was wrong, because the latter part of the book was even better. Melanie makes a decision at the end that has enormous implications. It affected me so much that it took a little while before I could even pick up another book. But was it the right decision? I think so, but that doesn’t mean that I was emotionally prepared for it.
Public service announcement: The Girl with All the Gifts is published by Orbit, a division of Hachette, the publisher that Amazon is battling. If you choose to buy this book (and you should!). think twice about buying from Amazon. Aside from the obvious reasons, Amazon is selling this at list price. B&N, Powells, and possibly your local indie, too, are selling it for significantly less.
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Exactly how much to reveal about the plot of Girl seems to be up for debate – indeed, many would argue that even revealing that it’s a zombie novel is a spoiler, despite it being revealed within the first few chapters of the book. But in the interest of playing cards close to the chest (even though I’ll say I knew the basic premise of the book going in, and it ruined nothing for me), I’ll simply say that Girl opens in a school setting, with a series of students going through their lessons. But it doesn’t take long to realize how much is off about these lessons – not just the lessons, but the sealed off military base in which they’re occurring, or the cells to which the children are carted – yes, carted – when the lessons finish. Yes, something is odd about this, but it certainly seems like a safer place than beyond the fences. Of course, that’s before classmates start vanishing one day.
That’s probably enough to get you started, but don’t worry – if you think you know where this is going (and again, I did before I even read it), Carey’s smart enough to never be too precious about his reveals, or to draw things out for too long. Instead, Girl constantly evolves and changes in front of you, doling out its reveals and reversals at a great pace, and letting the dynamics constantly change, keeping the reader on their toes without fail. Whatever the status quo is at any point in the book, don’t get too comfortable; Carey’s plotting is going to keep it changing and shifting, and keep the book compelling.
And yet, the book never feels episodic; thematically, it’s rich fare, with questions being raised about the nature of the zombie virus, and the distinction between us and the. That’s a classic zombie trope, but Girl echoes Richard Matheson’s essential I Am Legend in the way it approaches those issues, diving into the zombie virus with a love of scientific explanation that pleased me to no end, and giving me a biological reasoning behind zombies that was so obvious it stunned me no one had used it before that I could remember. But not content with using Matheson’s ideas about science-based horror, Carey also blurs the lines between zombies and humans, raising questions about our actions, morality, and where the line between monster and hero really comes – and delivering a knockout ending that took the book from “good” to “pretty dang great” in its perfection.
Look, for all of that, Girl undeniably has some faults, most notably in some of the supporting cast that work fine, but never great (I’m thinking especially here of the book’s chief antagonist, who needed just a little more tuning to keep her from being cartoonishly evil; as it is, you can see what Carey was going for, but it doesn’t quite work), and the action sequences are passable, not much more. But for all of that, it’s a blast to read, and more than that, it’s a reminder that even the most tired of genres can still be brought back to life with enough imagination and a fresh take.
Most recent customer reviews
Spoilers... Zombies are already a tired concept and this book does nothing to change that.Read more