The Female of the Species. Mindy McGinnis. Young adult/Mystery/Thriller. 2016. 352 pages. 4.5 stars.
“You see it in all animals–the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
*Trigger warning: violence and sexual assault*
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.
I have a lot to say about this book so I’ll try to coherently talk about it so it won’t become a mess of a review.
Let’s start with the cover and title. I have to admit that this is one of the prettiest covers I’ve ever seen. From the color and the design, it was so pretty that it was the first thing that drew me into reading this book. The title is also very fitting seeing that this story revolves around girls in high school save for Jack Fisher (more comments on him later).
This book was not what I expected. I’ve never read about a character quite like Alex Craft. She’s a girl with violent thoughts and tends to act out when she’s pushed. Alex’s sister Anna was sexually assaulted and killed three years ago and when Anna’s killer was left to roam free due to a lack of evidence, Alex decided to take it upon herself to serve justice on her own terms. Alex is a very aloof girl who is an outcast at the start. She is a very complex and interesting character–all of the characters in this book are, especially the female ones.
I loved reading about Claire (Peekay) and Branley because while they played their respective roles in this book, they showed their own individuality and complexity that it showed inconsistencies with their characters. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s realistic because all human beings aren’t consistent with who people portray them to be. I was very shocked to read about Branley’s childhood, so unlike the Branley we read about who loves sex, boys, and getting her way by seduction. It’s such a common trope to paint the “slut”–quotation marks because really, it’s 2017 and we still use these kinds of tropes as an insult? Really?–as the villain but Branley showed a side to her that was far from what we read in the first few chapters in the book. It’s another reason why I find the title so fitting! It really does talk about the female of the species who’re on different points of the spectrum.
Moving on to the parts that I disliked, they weren’t as great but it did hinder me from giving it 5 stars on this book. Right now it’s between a 4 and a 4.5.
Let’s talk about Jack Fisher. Jack Fisher, who has his own POV in a book about the female of the species. I would have appreciated this book more if they switched Jack’s POV to Branley’s POV! We see Branley from the perspectives of Alex, Peekay, and Jack but I want to see Branley from the way Branley sees herself. She was a very dynamic character and she was not given enough credit. I want more Branley.
Trigger warning, please don’t continue if you have issues with r*pe
This book is so heavy on rape that it was so uncomfortable to read about. It was thrown around casually and it took me so long to realize that what I’m reading isn’t fiction. These things happen in real life. Boys will throw the word “rape” around, joke about it, and go s as far as to wish it to girls. I felt sorry for Branley because boys don’t understand that just because a girl enjoys having sex doesn’t mean she wants/deserves to be raped. We see girls who used to see each other as enemies band together and form a friendship to ward off these assaults and I think that this is the message of the book beyond the emphasis of Alex serving justice to rapists/killers/molesters/etc.
I was also underwhelmed with the ending, not because it was predictable boring–believe me, it was exactly what I thought the ending should have been–but I think the writing was diluted that I didn’t really feel it happening. Nonetheless, it was a great way to wrap this up since it’s a standalone.
If you can, please read this book. I totally recommend it.