This book was chosen by my book group – and when I read the synopsis I was very unexcited about it if I’m honest! I’m not into dystopian / sci-fi novels at all so I put off reading this until the last minute, until I could put it off no more…
At the start of the book we are introduced to Melanie, a clever ten-year-old girl who lives in a small cell. Every morning she is strapped into a wheelchair, at gunpoint, and taken to a classroom where she has her lessons alongside other wheelchair-bound children. She has never, that she remembers, been outside this building, and she is accepting of her fate – but never gets straight answers to her questions.
Then one day everything changes and she finds herself on the outside, with her favourite teacher Helen Justineau, and a few other characters she isn’t so sure of…
Although we get the perspectives of different characters, to begin with we mainly get Melanie’s point of view, and I found this sucked me into the book straight away as she is as ignorant as us, the reader, to begin with so together we piece together what is really going on. It is very easy to read and although you have to suspend disbelief from the first page, this kind of worked for me, even though I am totally cynical and, as I say, not a fan of this genre.
The other main characters in this book are pretty ridiculous and stereotyped, from the scientist who feels no emotion at all, to the sergeant who is serious, cold and calculating – but deep down has a heart of gold. I found that a lot of the characters’ actions in the book were unrealistic, and the development of Melanie I also found unconvincing, and towards the end of the novel she behaves in ways that I found implausible.
Yet despite this, I found the book totally engrossing and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! I found I could go along with it, flaws and all, once I got in the ‘zone’ of the book, and I let myself get carried away with it. I wouldn’t be in a hurry to read another book by this author, or indeed in this genre, but as a one-off I had fun reading this one. It was pretty action-packed and there were unexpected twists and turns throughout the book, which made me want to keep reading. In this respect it is really well written, and I feel that the somewhat unbelievable characters somehow added to this.
As an aside, almost as soon as I started reading this book it reminded me of the film 28 Days Later and all the way through this really felt like a film – I could just picture it on the big screen. And sure enough at the end of the novel I discovered that the author has written a screenplay of The Girl With All The Gifts alongside the book, so expect to see this in cinemas near you soon!
Overall, despite my massive reservations, I couldn’t help but enjoy this book – and I even liked the slightly rushed ending.