M.R. Carey’s thriller The Girl With All The Gifts is one of the best post-apocalyptic books I’ve read in a long time. Tense, original, and compelling, this story had me asking questions from the beginning about the main characters and what happened to humanity, finding clues as the story continued until I was left with the sudden, unsettling end.

The Girl With All The Gifts’ main character, Melanie, sees herself and her classmates as ordinary children, but as she describes her daily life in an army base we begin to realise that something isn’t right. She’s taken between her cell and her classroom strapped into a wheelchair, given food once a week, and sprayed weekly with a strange, unpleasant chemical. When the perspective of the story switches – as it does frequently- to Miss Justineau, Sergeant Parks and Dr. Caldwell, we’re given an explanation for why they’re treated as they are. Melanie and the other children aren’t normal, they’re Hungries – humans who became infected by something unknown and now eat only live meat – but with a difference; they still have functioning brains, capable of learning.

When an invasion of Hungries invade the army base, Sergeant Parks manages to escape along with Private Gallagher, Miss Justineau and Dr. Caldwell. Melanie is also a survivor, to the displeasure of Sergeant Parks, but his plans to leave her behind are shot down by Dr. Caldwell and Miss Justineau – both for entirely different reasons. The way in which the relationships grow between the characters, in particular between Melanie, Miss Justineau and Sergeant Parks, is one of the most emotive parts of this story.

As the story continues we find out more about the infection that caused what’s known as the Breakdown. Everyday items such as money and car keys have become meaningless, and everywhere is deserted as the characters travel towards Beacon, the only city in Britain that’s still populated. The journey is full of shocks and suspense, and I never knew what would happen next. Melanie’s quick realisation of what she really is, Dr. Caldwell’s work to discover as much as she can about the infection, and the other characters’ actions and thoughts show humanity in an honest light.

It’s not a post-apocalyptic novel with a hopeful message, and humanity is definitely more focused on trying not to die than living life the way they used to. It’s chilling, it’s vivid, it’s memorable, and it’s a must-read for fans of the post-apocalyptic genre.