A while back, I was offered The Girl with All the Gifts, but after reading the blurb, I decided not to take them up on it. I got the mistaken impression that the plot was something along the lines of The Bad Seed, and I wasn't in the mood for a child psychopath.
Later, I read a review that changed my mind (I wish I could remember whose blog) and realized that my interpretation of the the book blurb was incorrect. Or that the blurb was deliberately deceptive in order to keep from revealing too much. So I tried to find it on NetGalley with no luck. Then a few days ago, NetGalley offered it again, and I instantly requested it. And read it yesterday!
The Girl with All the Gifts is a dystopian novel with a ten-year-old protagonist. Melanie is a genius and seems utterly charming, so why is she strapped into a chair at gun point each morning before being transported to class?
The other children in the class are treated the same way; each child kept in a separate cell with no communication except when in class. Their favorite teacher is Miss Justineau, and Melanie worships her for her warmth in a place where warmth is non-existent, for her inspired and enthusiastic teaching, and for her ability to relate to the children strapped in their chairs.
Precocious, vulnerable, inquisitive, and dangerous, Melanie remembers nothing before her arrival at this facility, a lab where the test subjects are children. She has been there most of her young life and accepts the restraints and situation without question. Miss Justineau and "Miss Justineau days" are the highlight of her bland existence.
The relationship between teacher and student lies at the heart of the story, but the post-apocalyptic world that Carey has created is full of tension and plays a crucial role. Miss Justineau is the only one who humanizes the children; the other characters (and, given the circumstances, this is understandable--if not admirable) choose to regard them as less than human and imminently threatening.
When an unexpected attack on the facility results in a few survivors being thrust from their safe environment into the devastated world that exists after The Breakdown, five characters with very different agendas must work together to survive.
The Girl with All the Gifts is both surprising and thought-provoking. It is difficult to review without spoilers, but provides an intense, gripping, and provocative reading experience.
NetGalley/Hachette Book Group
Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic. June 2014. Print length: 408 pages.