The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis (2016)
(YA) Fiction | Contemporary
“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.”
pooled ink Review:
This book was so good and yet in some ways using the word “good” to describe it feels almost inappropriate. But it had me hungry to know the story resolved to be told, afraid of the realities imbedded in each page, and sobbing through those final accounts as it all came to a close. I’m not a crier, but I had legit snot running down my face from crying as I squinted through my tears to read those final few chapters and it wasn’t even entirely for the specific events that explode at the end, although that certainly triggered it. More so I cried because this is a piece of my reality and it was hard to have it staring back at me where I couldn’t turn away or hide or feign ignorance or stand behind the flimsy belief that people get what they deserve. Because more often than not, they don’t.
You see it in all animals – the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
This book is told in three alternating POVs and I loved each one. Alex is the central character yet her chapters were often the shortest, but even so she didn’t need pages of words to get right to the point of her thoughts, her feelings, the way she viewed the world. People wanted to call her crazy. “What is wrong with you?” was a common question thrown at her face. But that’s the most wild part, she wasn’t crazy. Alright, maybe she had some hints of sociopathy but when it came down to it the way she viewed the world, while brutally black & white, was right and as it should be. Alex was like a champion to me and I cheered when she refused to yield. But she was also a bit like a dog in the pound, and it made me love her, want to understand her, want to protect her. All in all Alex became one of my favorite female characters that I’ve read so far in my short life. I will never be able to forget her character.
“Who is your supervisor?” she asks, glancing around the room as if suddenly realizing she’s the only adult here.
“God,” I say.
The other two POVs (Peekay and Jack) were just as riveting to read and I loved getting their perspective on the events in the book, on Alex, on who they’ve been and who they want to become. Peekay is the preacher’s kid (get it? PK. Peekay. #churchlife) but she’s a normal teenage girl trying to figure herself out in a small town life. Never in a thousand years would she have thought Alex would become the best friend she ever had. She thought she understood the world, knew her place in it, knew who she was and what she wanted but the world cannot be understood and Alex helped her face that. I loved their friendship.
Jack is a horny jock and typical teenage boy. He’s not a bad person, but he’s never pushed against society’s typical mold of “male” and never even realized that maybe he ought to. Until Alex. He never noticed her until suddenly he couldn’t stop noticing her. The love that blossoms between Jack and Alex was so complex, it was both agonizingly slow and panic-inducingly fast, but it doesn’t matter if their circles only began drifting closer and closer over the course of one year, Jack would know Alex better than anyone even if it broke his heart.
These three characters will slowly draw you in until you feel as if you’re the fourth person in their group, as if you know them. You feel what they feel and it will hold you captivated far beyond reading the final page.
Anger makes you tired, but guilt keeps you from falling asleep.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this was sometimes a difficult book to read, but please don’t let this scare you off. It was so well written and I wish more people would read it! I was actually so frustrated because although it only just came out in 2016 I had a hell of a time trying to find it anywhere other than online. I like to feel a book and flip through its pages before I purchase it since I don’t have a lot of money to spare, but no Barnes & Noble, no indie bookshop, no library I went to carried it. Finally I filled out some paperwork and a library hunted a copy down for me to borrow and of course now I’m going to purchase my own copy to re-read and keep. Gosh, I wish more people would read this book.
But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.
It covers topics such as rape culture, slut shaming, peer pressure, victim fear, bystander effect, consequences, easy vs normal, normal vs right. These might be deemed as “heavy” topics but honestly, they’re just typical topics, at least in a female’s life. When a guy goes on a date he just has to worry about his hair or if he’s got enough money to pay for dinner. When a girl goes on a date she has to worry if she’ll be raped or murdered. And the most infuriating part is that even good guys won’t believe us when we tell them this. Even good guys will be skeptical, think we’re being overdramatic. Even good guys will freeze up if they witness something, not know what to say so they’ll say and do nothing. And even girls will attack one another, shame one another, humiliate one another, ignore one another, let horrible things go unreported when it wasn’t the girl’s fault to begin with, for somehow our world revolves around men. But it doesn’t matter who you were, are, or might become, just because you want something doesn’t mean you can take it.
There are laws in place that stop us from doing things. This is what we tell ourselves. In truth we stop ourselves; the law is a guideline for how to punish someone who is caught.
This book does a really good job of not casting blind fiery brimstone judgment, it doesn’t just rage or man-hate. It shows good people, bad people, good people doing bad things, bad people doing good things…it shows a slice of the world as it is and if you feel uncomfortable then it’s because you know it’s wrong. And if you know something is wrong and you don’t say anything, do anything, just try to forget and go back to the way things were, well, then I’m not sure I can call you a good person. And sorry if that makes you upset, but what kind of person who lets injustice rule the world can be called “good”?
I don’t want the memories that I have.
The plot weaving of this book was so fantastic, and while it has a powerful message churning beneath each phrase, it isn’t hateful so much as honest. It’s the type of book I wish could be required reading in school… Anyway, I really hope you’ll add this book to your list. ♥
The Female of the Species will gently remove your rose-colored glasses right before grinding them coldly beneath its heel. It isn’t a blood-thirsty war cry so much as a dark yet heart-wrenching plea to look, to see, to understand, to change, and by the final page you will want to raise your fist and scream through the tears staining your cheeks for this book may use fictional names but the story is very real and likely in some way yours. A book that ought to be on every shelf with its binding worn and broken from having been read and shared so often because to shelf it pristine would be a betrayal to Alex and the sharp reality she refuses to ignore.
P.S. At the very top I wrote “(YA) Fiction” and I used those parenthesis because although this book was published as YA and is shelved as YA and features high school characters, it is a book written honest enough to not sound or feel like typical teen/YA and it’s a book important enough for adults of every generation to need to read, to understand the world as it is today and what we face especially as youths (although I know the core of this book applies with familiarity to the females of each generation even if the details have changed). I love the YA genre but it battles stereotypes and is so often shunned by adults and I’d hate for that prejudice to be the only reason standing between them and this book.
Purchase Here: The Female of the Species
Similar Recommended Reads: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, Alarum by Talis Jones, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, Heroine by Mindy McGinnis
Meet Mandy McGinnis!
Mindy McGinnis is a YA author who has worked in a high school library for thirteen years and is an Edgar Award-winning novelist who writes across multiple genres, including post-apocalyptic, historical, thriller, contemporary, mystery, and fantasy. While her settings may change, you can always count on Mindy’s books to deliver grit, truth, and an unflinching look at humanity and the world around us.
-Goodreads & Author Website