The Girl With All the Gifts is a bit slow moving at first. We start with Melanie, a precocious young girl who is being raised in captivity on a military base. She, along with two dozen other children, have various teacher who give them a variety of lessons. Ms Justineau is Melanie’s favorite teacher in part because she reads Greek myths to the class. But this isn’t a regular school; the children are kept locked up in cells and they attend their classes bound to wheelchairs. They, along with all the people are the base, are never allowed outside because of a threat they call hungries.
Dr. Caldwell, the base doctor, has begun taking some of the students into her lab to dissect and Melanie is selected as the next test subject. Ms Justineau hears about this and breaks into the lab in an attempt to save Melanie. Just as Caldwell was getting started on her experiment the base is broken into by Junkers, scavengers who don’t live on any base, and Melanie saves them by attacking back. You see, this isn’t a regular dystopian YA novel, this is a dystopian YA novel where the heroine is a zombie.
“Melanie realises now that she’s been told all this already. She just ignored it, ignored the self-evident logic of her world, and believed – out of the many conflicting stories she was given – only the parts she wanted to believe.”
The beginning part, at the base, is very slow moving but things pick up exponentially after the base is broken into and Melanie, along with Dr Caldwell, Ms Justineau, Sergeant Parks and one of his soldiers end up on the run. Melanie, who is a hungry, still retains the mental faculties of a human which is why she and the other students were so valuable to Dr Caldwell. Despite her human-like qualities Melanie is still dangerous to her travel companions; if she gets the scent of a human she feels an insatiable hunger and could kill or infect someone. Her realization and reaction to discovering she was a hungry is incredibly well written. Overall Carey did an excellent job developing a realistic world and even a believable cause for zombies (spoiler- it’s a fungal colony in your brain). Despite a slow start the second half of the book is an exciting page turner and I found the ending incredibly realistic for a sci-fi story.