I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.
When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh.
Melanie is a very special girl.
A gripping novel which you could read just as a really good yarn. Or you could pay attention to a couple of the themes: what is the nature of humanity, and, how much should we care about one another?
Melanie is a student with adoration for one of her teachers. She is very bright and very emotional, but the reader can tell from the very first page that something is off kilter. Why is she confined to a cell? Why does she have to be tied into a chair every day before she can be taken to class? Why is there a whole class full of children being restrained in this way?
It reminded me somehow of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—who abandoned his monster instead of giving it the care and consideration that he owed it. This is the flip side of that scenario—and the monster tries just as hard as those who care about her. There is love and loyalty, which are entirely missing from Frankenstein. Are Melanie and those like her still human? What kind of consideration do they merit? Or should they be treated as science experiments and test subjects, as Caroline Caldwell cold bloodedly does? Who is more human, Melanie or Caroline?
It also made me think of I am Legend by Richard Matheson. When you become a tiny minority (Robert Neville becomes a population of one) are you still to be considered normal? Are you still on the right side of history when you hunt down and destroy those who are different from you?
I thought about all of this last night, as I purged the mysterious plastic containers from my refrigerator, trying not to gag when I discovered an antique yogurt container containing only dried, green mould! I was reading Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You at the same time as The Girl and the chapter about the ants that end up being hi-jacked by fungus DNA to do very un-ant-like things was very relevant. You will never look at those fuzzy growths in your fridge quite the same after this novel.