The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 20, 2016
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 4.24 (as of 2018-10-10)
content warnings: animal death, animal abuse, rape, pedophilia
A contemporary YA novel that examines rape culture through alternating perspectives.
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 Female of the Species had been on my radar for a while now, and apparently I’m going through a spell of reading YA books about sexual assault because this is one of three I’ve read in the last few weeks. Luckily they were all well-crafted in their own ways and I didn’t have to worry about killing them with comparison.
Fuzzy faces peering through bars can be unbearable for many.
Change the face to a human one and the reaction changes.
This switches between three characters’ points of view: Alex, Peekay, and Jack. At first I found these changes somewhat jarring, but either the book or I eventually settled into a rhythm where they became more natural. I ended up adoring each character for different reasons, although I struggled with Jack towards the beginning. I liked the dynamics between them, although occasionally I was confused about their motives behind certain actions.
The plot itself was interesting, and differed a lot from most contemporary YA novels. While it does follow the typical “high school kids falling in love and learning more about themselves as they contemplate their futures” path, it also deals with something a lot deeper: the subjectivity of morality. The reader finds themself siding with a vigilante murderer — or at least I did — thus showing that things aren’t quite as black-and-white as they seem.
Her eyes are on mine and it’s like there’s no such thing as casual flirting with this girl. Every word she speaks is intense as hell and thoroughly investigated before she lets it out of her mouth.
While I ended up enjoying the book a lot, there were a few things that didn’t work for me. As I noted above, the perspective switches were a bit disconcerting for me to begin with. I also didn’t know how to feel about Jack’s “secret” regarding Alex’s sister. It’s revealed pretty early on, but I won’t spoil it. All I’ll say is that I don’t really understand its purpose. Perhaps it was meant to create some sort of tension between the two at the outset, but it never gets brought up or used in any meaningful way and I truly just forgot about it several times.
But overall, this is definitely a worthwhile read. I found the moral questions it unearthed very interesting while also just enjoying it as a work of fiction. I’d definitely recommend you pick this one up if it seems like your thing.
The books didn’t help me find a word for myself; my father refused to accept the weight of it. And so I made my own.
I am vengeance.