Book Review: “A Girl with All the Gifts” by M. R. Carey


I heard of this book through a youtube channel that recommended this book highly. Little did I know that it’s been made to a movie. Then I went ahead and watched the movie half way through the book, which sort of spoiling the ending for me but I was hoping the book ending would differ from the movie, but no, it’s not as predictable as other books/movies when humans win back the world. The book was well written and in fairly good pace. Most of time, I thought I was watching/reading the “Walking Dead,” which I follow except the zombies or hungries were faster and meaner with a faster and more deadly consequence when infected – they turn immediately. Since we don’t know the ending of the Walking Dead, we cannot compare the endings.

I thought Justinau was a bit more aggressive than I expect a teacher to be. The two soldiers, Parks and Galagher were what they should be – courageous and masculine. Caldwell, the scientist, was dedicated to saving the humans and was willing to try any means, including cutting up children’s brains, to be the savior of man kind – very believable. Melanie, was portrayed as a smart kid who learned from the best, loyal to people who’s kind to her but ultimately self-determined when she had to choose between humans and her kind. She had the gifts of being half humans and hungries and possessed the ability to switch back and forth.

There are subtle differences between the book and movie: 1) no “junkers” (human bandits) in the movie, probably because of the time limitation. 2) Ms. Justineau was nicer in the movie than in the book, probably because Dr. Caldwell, acted by Glenn Close, seemed meaner to be Justinau’s punch bag. 3) The grand tower of fungus climbed on a tall building instead of its own – probably better visual in the movie.

Overall, I enjoy and recommend the book and the movie; it’s a nice mental getaway from daily grind of work and escape from the weighty non-fiction books. Nothing like an apocalyptic book can put you in proper perspectives.

Here’s a quick review of the book and the movie. Be aware that the review will spoil/reveal the ending. You might want to wait until you read the book or watch the movie. Also the author M. R. Carey had the foresight or privilege of writing the book and the movie script simultaneously. Very clever. The movie differs slightly from the book but mostly follow the book’s plot.

The book started with the imprisoned kids being strapped in wheel chairs during a class room really piqued my interest in the beginning. It gets more interesting or suspenseful when the zombie characteristic was revealed in those kids. This was where it reminded me of the “Walking Dead” or other zombie movie.

Melanie was the girl with all the “gifts.” What kind of gifts? You’ll discover along the way as story continues. The book was written in the present tense to enhance the suspense as if you are watching the story unfolds. Ms. Justineau was the teacher who’s teaching all these special kids, who could turn into monsters like the other “Hungries” who at this time most of the humans have become after being infected by the fungus of a funny name. However, these kids were special because they possessed most of the human characteristics until they smelled humans or living things, at which time the monster or the fungus-occupied brain would take over, attack and feed on all living things. To prevent them from “turning,” the humans had to put on e-blocker to prevent the human scents. The kids were stationed in a special research camp for Dr. Caldwell to research and cut/slice their brain cells for experimentation.

Then the camp got run over by hungries, leaving Justinau – the teacher, Caldwell – the scientist, Sargent Parks – the protector, Galagher – Park’s subordinate and of course Melanie. They ran from one place to another trying to get to Beacon, the headquarter of human intelligence. Along the way, they found Rosie, the special, mobile research truck that Caldwell use to work in. At this time, they encountered a bunch of kids like those in the camp, except they’re raw and uneducated. They attacked Rosie and ended up killing all humans because of Melanie’s scheme in tricking Parks into starting the flame of the grand tower, the mother of all fungus. In doing so, the spores from the hard pods were spread into the air and infected all humans, turning them into “hungries,” except for Justinau who would stay in the Rosie and teach the kids language and culture just like the beginning of the story. I don’t think she would last long in that truck, but that’s another story.

I was hoping that humans would make a comeback and retake the world but the ending ushered in the demise of humans and the beginning of new civilization when the fungus and human form would coexist, starting with these kids. Now, how they were going to propagate themselves, we don’t know or weren’t told. Maybe that’s for a sequel…

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