The Girl with All the Gifts

It's tempting to believe that the postapocalyptic zombie novel has been done to death, but M.R. Carey (The Naming of the Beasts, writing as Mike Carey) proves that the genre has life in it yet. Carey's The Girl with All the Gifts opens in "The After," which is what survivors call the new era after the outbreak of an unknown and uncontrollable virus that, yes, turns its victims into the walking dead. Here, 10-year-old Melanie wakes each morning in her cell, climbs into her wheelchair, and waits for soldiers to strap her in and wheel her off to school.

When a rival clan of survivors seeking food and resources attacks the cellblock in which Melanie lives, she finds herself launched out of her secluded life and into the dangerous world outside, full of abandoned towns, ransacked grocery stores and hundreds upon hundreds of the infected, known as "hungries." Luckily, she's not alone--she is with Miss Justineau, her favorite teacher, as well as two soldiers and a scientist. But as the small group ventures farther into the land formerly known as England, Melanie finds within herself a hunger she never knew existed, and her slow and steady approach toward self-awareness becomes as suspenseful as the small group's dangerous journey toward safer land.

The Girl with All the Gifts functions like a set of nesting dolls: Melanie's coming-of-age tale sits within her story of self-realization, resting inside a novel of scientific discovery, cradled by an impressive reimagining of a post-apocalyptic world. All together, those pieces combine into one zombie novel impressively steeped in human emotion. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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