The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey


I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me talk about this book in all my posts, so you should be glad to know that this is the last post about it! I finished it! And although it was creative, exciting, with well developed characters, interesting ideas and great prose–it also irritated me quite a bit.

Along with the other things that bothered me (scientist looking for the cure is the villain, zombies in general) one of the main characters was so annoying to me, that I was hoping for her to die or be injured for most of the book. Not because I disliked her or she was an awful person, but because she was so careless, and disrespectful of the danger around her and made such rash decisions that consistently had no consequence for her, that I found myself wanting her to learn a lesson.

Here are some of the things Miss J, a schoolteacher, does with no consequence (spoilers, etc):

  1. Refuses to see zombie children as threats: In this story, zombies roam the earth, but for some reason the children are able to think and learn, although they still chase down people and gorge on their flesh like any other zombie. Miss J. teaches a class of these children which have been captured, as a way to study how well they are able to learn (she’s not the one doing the studying, she’s just a teacher, others study the results of her teaching.) The children are tied up in restraints during the class, because if they smell human pheromones they go berserk and have to eat it. Miss J seems to disbelieve this, and touches the zombies as if they are normal children, despite the soldiers’ shocked horror and warning for her not to. Several times later in the book, she tells soldiers “don’t shoot them they’re children!” even as the ‘children’ are attacking and eating other characters in the group. She herself is never injured by any of the ‘children’ though, which would have been very satisfying to me.
  2. Attacks a scientist for trying to do experiments on child zombies: In a military base, the sole purpose of which is to research zombies for a cure, Miss J–whose entire purpose for being on this base is to help gather data about the zombie children, for the purpose of researching a cure–finds out that her favorite zombie child is about to be dissected. So she breaks into the lab and physically attacks the scientist in order to stop it, not giving any thought that this is necessary for learning of a cure, not giving any thought that she is on a military base, attacking another person, and will surely be locked up, and the experiment will continue anyway while she is locked in a cell. But once again, she experiences no consequences for her actions, because at just the right time the base is overrun by zombies and everyone has to flee.
  3. Shoots a flare up in the middle of a zombie infested city street, while also being pursued by human enemies: Miss J’s favorite zombie child, which she’s brought along with the group (another crazy decision she forced on the group with no consequences, but that is kind of the whole story so I’ll let that one slide) has gone off into the night to search for food to eat, so that she wont have such a hard time resisting the urge to eat the other people in the group. Miss J gets worried that the zombie child is lost, and even though they are surrounded by other zombies that are attracted to sounds and lights, and also are being pursued by another group of humans who want to kill them, decides that it is worth it to risk the lives of the entire group and shoot up a flare so that her favorite zombie child can find her way back. This time, the soldier in the group pulls his gun and actually thinks about shooting Miss J to stop her–this is how emphatically it is explained to her that this is a bad idea. She shoots the flare anyway, while basically daring the soldier to kill her. No one finds them due to the flare. There is no consequences for this action.

All of the above is to explain that, as I read the story, and these instances piled up (there were many more, smaller ones that I won’t take the time to mention) I more and more found myself wanting bad things to happen to Miss J–one of the main characters of the story, who I presume I should have been rooting for.

Instead, the only time I found myself cheering was when doctor Caldwell, the ‘evil’scientist who cuts up zombie children, and who the other characters treat like shit for the entire book, finally lost it and took off in the tank-like vehicle they’d been traveling in, leaving the others behind to die. This was very satisfying to me because it was finally a consequence for Miss J’s actions. She was a real horrible person to Caldwell, and finally something happened because of it. Even though I got the impression I was supposed to dislike Caldwell, she was my favorite character in the story.

In the end, though, Miss J is the only one left alive. This was no surprise to me, as by this point I had got the picture that she was the writer’s pet and would never come to any real harm.

I’m doing a lot of complaining because this was actually a fun, exciting, interesting, and well written book. And when you are enjoying something so much, the things you dislike stand out even more. It’s an exciting zombie apocalypse story, where the science of the zombies is explained in a way I’d never heard before. Even though the scientist explaining it has to be a villain for some reason I can never understand.

Creative, thrilling and fun, give it a try!


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