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A Nightmare that Walks like a Girl
Is Melanie a monster or a prodigy? The title of this post refers to the first of our thrilling reads of the day, The Girl with all the Gifts, in which one character, Sergeant Parks, thinks of Melanie as “the nightmare-that-walks-like-a-girl.” He’d rather deal with blood-thirsty zombies than with something that walks and talks like a polite girl, but isn’t quite human. The reader, on the other hand, becomes completely enamoured with Melanie–she’s smart and sweet and loves to learn.
It’s hard to gush about this book without giving too much away, and it’s the twists and turns that make it a lot of fun. That said, the characters and their development make it excellent. This is a postapocalyptic novel with elements of gory horror–human (Dr. Caldwell’s cruel single-mindedness) and zombie (wait ’til you get to the feral children!) and fungal. It is also a contemplation of what makes someone (or something) human. I think teens will appreciate the thriller pacing as well as Melanie’s search for self-acceptance, identity and place in the world.
Robogenesis is the sequel to Daniel H. Wilson’s blockbuster, Alex Award-winning hit, Robopocalypse. (In between, he published Amped, a standalone also recommended for teens.) Rumors are swirling around Steven Spielberg’s intentions to get down to work on the movie version of Robopocalypse. It has been on hold since 2011.
Wilson also edited a short story collection in partnership with John Joseph Adams that published in April titled Robot Uprisings. Another great choice for teen collections, especially given the list of authors included–Hugh Howey, Ernest Cline, Cory Doctorow, Julianna Baggott, Nnedi Okorafor and Robin Wasserman, to name a few.
CAREY, M. R. The Girl with all the Gifts. 416p. Orbit. Jun. 2014. Tr. $25. ISBN 9780316278157. LC 2013945113.
In this thought-provoking postapocalyptic zombie novel, Melanie lives with other children her age, one to a cell. They go to school in a single classroom down the hall. To get there they are muzzled and tied into wheelchairs at gunpoint. Melanie loves school, especially the days when Miss Justineau is the teacher. Sergeant Parks doesn’t approve of Helen Justineau’s affection for her students. To make his point, one day he rolls up his sleeve and puts his skin close to a couple kids. They begin drooling, losing all ability to think beyond the need to bite him. The children live on an army base where Dr. Caldwell is researching the key to what makes these subjects different from the mindless, animalistic flesh-eating hungries that took over the world 20 years earlier when most of humanity was infected by a virulent fungus. When the base is attacked, Sergeant Parks, Miss Justineau, Dr. Caldwell, and Melanie flee together toward Beacon—a haven where most of England’s uninfected live. As they travel through the devastated countryside, Melanie learns about the larger world, and understands that she is a danger to her companions. Miss Justineau tells her she is not a monster, but Melanie’s new self-awareness is heartbreaking. At the same time, Melanie discovers new powers and skills within herself that prove critical to the group’s survival. Just what is she? Could she be the answer that will save humankind? This unpredictable novel goes beyond genre expectations thanks to its characters, especially Helen Justineau and Melanie, and one doozy of a twist ending.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City
WILSON, Daniel H. Robogenesis. 384p. Doubleday. Jun. 2014. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9780385537094. LC 2014000720.
Just when you thought the world was safe from the AI-driven robot revolution that failed to destroy all humans in Robopocalypse (Doubleday, 2011), a sequel has arrived to let us know we are not safe—not at all. The robs are still out there and so is the super intelligence that organizes and programs them to kill, or in some cases, take over human bodies and turn them into…ZOMBIES. The first robot war is over and the super intelligence is disabled, but somehow the robots have gone rogue, human survivors have turned against each other, and neither is safe from the manipulations of the new super intelligent computer AR8, who knows the destruction of all humankind will ensure its own domination of earth. Human survival depends on a coalition of ragtag veterans of the first war and the children called modifieds, who during the war were implanted with supersensory robotics and now possess unusual powers of communication and strength that may bring down AR8. But it seems the only thing truly capable of destroying AR8 is an even greater intelligence. Teens who enjoyed the first book will find the tense action, fast pace, and the imaginatively clever robot creations totally satisfying. However, those who have not read the previous title might find it challenging to decipher the circumstances and characters in this entry. Best to put both on the sci-fi summer reading list.—John Sexton, Greenburgh Public Library, NY
About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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