Author: Mindy McGinnisSeries: Standalone
Released: September 20 2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Length: 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.
After a hugely successful dystopian trilogy and her standalone exploration of insanity in a historical setting, Mindy McGinnis delves into a new territory with The Female of the Species, which is perhaps best described as a hyper-realistic contemporary examination of teenage life, human resilience and revenge. It’s a bold, daring book that shoves hard realities right into our faces, making no effort to soften the blows or make us feel better along the way. Those who are a bit more sensitive to drugs and violence in young adult books might have a hard time reading it, but in truth, the pain and heartbreak, the shock and outrage are so worth your time and trouble with this book.
The Female of the Species is an exploration of humanity at its best and at its worst, with no hiding or sugarcoating whatsoever. McGinnis’ teens have sex, they cheat, bully and take drugs, they live with no thought for tomorrow or their own safety. Sexual violence, date-rapes and slut-shaming all happen on a daily basis, perhaps not always visible, but lurking under the surface nevertheless. McGinnis does a fantastic job of bringing to light things we’d like to keep hidden. As a policeman points out during a school assembly, one in three girls and one in six boys are sexually assaulted in high school, but the statistics mean nothing until we give them names and faces. McGinnis gives us names on both sides of the fence, she gives us characters to care about and exposes them to more than enough to incite our anger.
The female of the species is more deadly than the male. The female defends, she protects herself and others. When pushed to her limits, she becomes quietly deadly, a force that shows no mercy while fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. This story is told from three perspectives: Jack, the popular boy; Peekay, the preacher’s kid, and Alex, the girl with the dead sister, the female of the species in the truest sense. Each of them somehow represents one conflicting, primal part in each of us. Peekay represents the kind, innocent part that still believes people are inherently good. Jack is that constant fight between right and wrong, he represents the choices each of us make daily trying to do what’s right. Alex is the most hidden part, the part that screams for justice and revenge, that violence that hides in everyone, tempered and suffocated by societal norms and expectations.
Make no mistake, this book will open your eyes and shatter your heart, and if you by any chance, have a preadolescent child like I do, it will leave you terrified of the future. This may be a gritty and grim portrayal of teenage life, but it’s painfully honest and necessary, designed to make us question gender stereotypes, the way we assign blame and the abnormal behaviors we take for granted.
The Female of the Species is a hard book to read, but a great one to absorb and take to heart. I have to applaud McGinnis for approaching these topics in a way that will surely stand out and remain vividly emblazoned in our minds, hopefully leaving us slightly more aware than we were before picking it up.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.