Author: M.R. Carey
Published: 2014 by Orbit (Little, Brown Book Group)
Find it at: Amazon / Flipkart
My Rating: 5/5
Not every gift is a blessing...
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.
When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.
The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.
The Girl With All The Gifts is what would leave you shuddering, for various reasons, depending on how you interpret it. Melanie, a ten year old girl living with her classmates at the 'base', knows no other home. Getting strapped into a wheelchair every morning with a gun pointed at her, she gets ready for classes, and a few other routine things every week or so. As you read this book, get ready to dive into a future where nothing seems safe anymore. Guard yourself with arms, lots of e-blocker and only then go about your day. If you have a day left, that is.
At the base, Melanie takes classes with different teachers, none of whom are as good as Miss Justineau, who frequently tells them stories. Nobody likes Caroline Caldwell, the woman who runs the 'programme'. What happens when one day, Mrs Caldwell asks for Melanie? Who are those men slinking around the boundaries of the base? And when everything is turned around, how can things get even worse? But they do. And that's when you, as a reader would start realizing what is happening. Set in a dystopian setting (or something more imaginative and horrifying than that), this book is about the life of a girl who likes imagining herself as Pandora - the girl said to have all the gifts. This book is also about fighting for survival and about goodness in the midst of evil. It is also about personal life goals and crossing limits, boundaries and whatever has been set for you, just to achieve those. It's about love for fellow humans, even strangers, because sometimes those are all you have. It's also about surrender and about why it can be okay to give up, to make the best of the situation at hand.
The story has been written in third person, but even that narration seemed different to me somehow. It transitioned from nearly one person's perspective to someone else throughout the book, which I thought was inventive. This is also a great book if you want to increase your vocabulary. I've underlined so many words I didn't know even existed! Other than that, I liked all the characters, even the horrendous Mrs Caldwell, since they all seemed to be carrying their own back stories and even if you hate anyone, it's not without good cause. More than that, it's Melanie and Miss Justineau's relationship and their strong character sketches that keep the book going. It's hard not to empathise with characters like them. The sequence of events is such that the book's bound to keep you hooked, especially since it'll be a long time when you start understanding what's it all about. That's when you'll find yourself in a confounded state, because you'll be wanting to shut your eyes as you read on about unimaginable stuff, but you'd be automatically reading it nonetheless.
I really can't talk a lot about this book without giving away anything, which I don't want to, because that'd be spoiling the reading experience for you. But I'd recommend all lovers of futuristic, apocalyptic, horror stories to read this book. It's also part fantasy, but mostly about human relationships, especially that of a child and parent. It's classified under horror not because it's the 'OMG-there-comes-a-foul-ghost' kind of scary, but the kind that slowly seeps into your veins as you read the words, and since it's already running in your blood, you'll feel cold all the time. Yes. That kind.
Quotes marked from the book:
'You can't save people from the world. There's no where else to take them.'
'Melanie finds this interesting in spite of herself. That you can use words to hide things, or not to touch them, or to pretend that they're something different than they are.'
'It's not just Pandora who had that inescapable flaw. It seems like everyone has been built in a way that sometimes makes them do wrong and stupid things.'
'When your dreams come true, your true has moved. You've already stopped being the person who had the dreams, so it feels more like a weird echo of something that already happened to you a long time ago.'
'The horror of the unknown is more frightening than any horror you can understand.'