The Girl with all the Gifts features Melanie, an obviously brilliant child, surviving the mysteriously strict and small world of her school and trying to discover who she is and how she fits in the world around her. The story unfolds to reveal other heroes and a larger world that these folks must survive together in a strange survival road trip. I hesitate to say much more, because although the surprises are not hard to see coming, the story is more valuable with them.
I wanted to love The Girl with all the Gifts because it checks a lot of important boxes for me: interesting female protagonist(s), enigmatic circumstances, post apocalyptic setting, and, most importantly, gifted to me by a friend who pretty much always gives me gold to read. Unfortunately, the first act of this book is the best, as most of the mysteries can be predicted early if you have any familiarity with the genres this book falls into. Still, that first act, where we are learning about Melanie and her smaller world, rather than the larger one we are introduced to later, is so intriguing. In this world, the other characters (teacher, Sargent, doctor, and soldier) shine the most because their motivations, intentions, and stories are harder to discern and tangled together more tightly. In this world we get to see learning through a child’s eyes and all the ways this can shape our hopes and dreams when we are young and know the least about ourselves. Watching Melanie mold who she might become, in her mind alone, is a joy and watching the adults around her react to it is fantastic.
Once we move past this first section, the story flattens out along with the characters. I became less interested in all of them save Melanie and the soldier. The plot is slow and then wraps up all too suddenly. Although there are parts of the end that were certainly enjoyable.
I did some reading about this book after I finished it, mostly trying to determine if it qualifies as Young Adult fiction. I’d certainly recommend it for fun, light, quick reading but if you’re a fan of more complicated stories and deeper characters, then it will probably disappoint.