The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis is a hard book to read and to review. But I’m going to try and I’m going to try to do it justice.
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 is not just about one hard topic, it is about two: rape and murder. While the former is always considered bad, this book makes you question whether the latter is also always bad. After Alex’ sister is molested and murdered and the one responsible is walking free, she decides to take matters in her own hands. Literally. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that ever got so in-depth about the topic of morality and murder in this way: in a brutal and honest way.
“You see it in all animals – the female of the species is more deadly than the male.’
I can’t say if Alex is a good person or a bad person – that’s what you have to figure out for yourself – but I can say she’s a very interesting character. She is intelligent and feminist and amazing with animals and and violent emotionally closed off. Throughout the story she goes through an enormous amount of development: she opens up and makes friends and even falls in love. The other characters were also neither good nor bad, but just like Alex, Peekay and Jack feel like real people.
“I live in a world where not being molested as a child is considered luck.”
This book is filled with stereotypes… and then they’re crushed. And Alex is a big part of that, she sees through the stereotypes and sees people for who they really are. The bad and the good and everything in between. The story is rough and violent and HUGE TRIGGERWARNINGS all around (rape, violence, murder, death, sibling death, sexual abuse), and I can’t say it’s fun to read all the time, but it’s also intriguing and interesting and if I had read the physical book (I listened to it on audio) I would have found myself flipping pages faster and faster.
“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.”
The story began dark and ended dark, but there’s also some light. There’s great female friendships and girlpower and great feminist messages and a lovely romance. But please don’t go into this book thinking you’re going to read a cute contemporary, because this book is everything from cute. Only read this if you’re in the right mental space and if you can handle trigger warnings, because it’s not a light read. It’s really hard to rate this book, but I think I’m going with 4 stars because of so many reasons – most of which I’ve mentioned above.