The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Published: September 2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Rape Culture, High School, Romance, Drama
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone. As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.
The book world needs unreliable characters.
Because it’s not true that you can trust anyone you meet. These characters teach you to stay vigilant and make sure you know the person you’re with inside out before you give them access to your precious heart.
Plus they’re very entertaining.
Alex Craft is not your typical teenage girl. She may seem like she is at first glance, but then you hear her talk and you notice her eerie stillness and suddenly you’re not sure anymore who’s the person in front of you.
She’s a killer. She murdered the murderer who murdered and raped her sister. Well that was a mouthful, but just in case you haven’t gotten the message yet: Alex Craft has some demons inside of her that are itching to get out… again.
One would say that she is ridding the world of its nasty creatures (aka the rapists), but that doesn’t change the fact that she ended someone’s life and now she’s trying to be a normal teenager again? It doesn’t work that way. Maybe for a psychopath or a sociopath, but is that really who Alex is?
This is familiar, and yet so unlike any YA contemporary book I have read before. It is familiar because there is high school drama and boy drama and thirsty, disgusting boys who can’t keep it in their pants and simply must jump on everything that moves.
But then there’s Alex Craft who fights, quite violently, to stop the normalization of rape (‘‘boys will be boys’’) that becomes more and more prevalent every time someone fails to denounce it. Her friends Peekay and Jack also find ways of exposing rape culture for what it is: an abomination, though in more innocuous ways than Alex does. They learn from each other slowly but surely and help each other grow into informed adults.
I’m looking around at other responses to this story, and almost everyone mentions how ‘‘dark’’ and ‘‘gut-wrenching’’ this book is. While I agree that it is not an easy read and, of course, unpredictable from start to finish (impossible for it not to be when you have a character like Alex Craft), it’s also somewhat quiet… and slow. There is little action, the characters’ ever-evolving thoughts being the focus of the story. By ‘‘quiet,’’ I mean that most of it is like the calm before the storm… though the storm certainly does eventually come.
I was supposed to read this one when I was granted access to an early copy, but as you can see I decided to wait two years instead. Because why not. Because sometimes you don’t really think it’s going to be that good and you want to postpone the disappointment as much as possible, even when what actually awaits you is a powerful new outlook on a topic that should stop being taboo. Rape needs to be discussed so it can be broken apart. Don’t fear the word. Understand it and fight against it, too.
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Hey, Lola! Another great review. I’m so on the fence with this book. The theme and Alex as a character make me really want to read it, but it’s so frustrating to get locked into a slow plot. Hmmm.
Well, it’s slow-ish but it’s gripping! And even if it’s slow, the chapters are not very long, which somewhat speeds up the pacing here and there. It’s only slow because there’s a lot of introspection going on, but the characters’ thoughts are interesting. And thank you! 🙂
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Thanks for the rec, Lola. I think I’ll put Female of the Species back on my TBR list after all.
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