My review of The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey is going to give you a sense of déjà vu if you read my other review for One Safe Place. That’s because in my opinion both of these books rushed too quickly to reveal their big secret about what happens to the children.
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t yet read The Girl With All the Gifts you should come back later as I can’t really write this review without discussing the big reveal.
Ok, if you are still reading either you have already read the book, or you are just a masochist. I don’t understand why less than a quarter through the book, actually more like one-eighth into the book the author chooses to reveal who Melanie really is, plus even before it was said there were giant hints. C’mon M.R., tease me a bit, tantalize me until I am bursting with curiosity instead of leading me by the hand to the secret. The first few pages were great and disconcerting as you wonder who this child and her teachers are, what kind of school educates brilliant minds but doesn’t allow them to also be children or have feelings?
I like apocalyptic and dystopian stories that make me feel unbalanced in the initial chapters. Don’t tell me what’s going on, just leave some crumbs, and challenge me to start putting the pieces together. In this fast food world we leave in, everyone wants everything now, whereas I prefer to savor, especially when it comes to stories.
Trying to make sense of Melanie’s world is what drew me into the book and so I don’t understand the rush to fling open the doors so quickly to reveal the ugly truth of her existence. Did this author think I wanted fast food?
I do imagine that maybe it would be hard for M.R. Carey to walk the fine balance of leaving enough clues so that readers stay engaged, but not so many that they figure out this world too soon, yet it has been done successfully by other authors, Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is a classic example of the art of giving readers a hint of unease without giving away the truth until the very end. It’s the reason this story remains on reading lists at schools and why years after reading it, the short story still stands out in my mind. Yet, maybe you would argue that as a short story, the challenge wasn’t as difficult to not reveal the world the character inhabits as it would be in a novel. The Adoration of Jenna Fox did so successfully and I think this book would have been stronger for extending the main conceit yet still having plenty of pages to address the development of Melanie into someone more human than the humans she is surrounded by. I did like that there wasn’t any miracle cure and the role reversal between Melanie and Ms. Justineau from student to teacher.