The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 20th, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Young Adult,
“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.”
This was a book that flew completely under the radar. I hadn’t seen anyone talk about it on BookTube or Bookstagram. And I only discovered it through a review of McGinnis’ other book, Heroine. The Female of the Species happened to be on super sale on Book Outlet, so I took a chance!
In The Female of the Species, Alex Craft knows how to kill someone and she doesn’t feel an ounce of remorse for it.
Three years ago, her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free. Alex unleashed her rage through an act of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among people.
Not with Jack, the star athlete who is interested in her, but feels guilty because of what he did the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a rebellious streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. As senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out more often, setting these teens on a course that will change their lives forever.
This book is a wild! It’s wonderfully weird, but that’s not to say that it’s a light and enjoyable read.
I went into this book thinking I’d get a badass, feminist, Dexter-like experience, which some of that was fulfilled. But what I was most surprised about was that this book is a dark, melancholy, and painful look at how insidious rape culture is and what it takes to dismantle it.
It goes without saying that this book is brutal to read. Some earlier scenes had my stomach turning. But it’s worth it if you can make it through those early chapters.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the multiple POVs that we got in this book. normally I find that that can make a book feel really disjointed and can really bring a book down. But I liked it because McGinnis made sure that each character had a distinct personality and voice. That really shined here and that’s not always the case in other books by authors that attempt this!
You can tell that McGinnis has the utmost control over her characters and their voices. She never loses track of the narrative, where the characters are, even if there’s quite a bit of jumping around in terms of the timeline.
Which brings me to the characters. Alex makes the perfect anti-hero. She thrives living in the grey area. She’s vengeful, resilient, and morally all over the place. She’s frightening because she’s so unpredictable. But that’s what I love about the character. You understand where she’s coming from. Her actions, her thoughts, her words are purposeful. You can’t help but have a soft spot for her.
I surprisingly found Jack very charming. Even though he has all the makings of a generic jock character. Jack is surprisingly charming for a teenager who’s got it all. He’s the star athlete and up for valedictorian. You really believe that he’s a good kid at heart despite being driven by his hormones. As the only male POV in the story, he provided an interesting perspective on how men react to rape culture.
The last POV we got was Peekay, who really grew on me throughout the book. It was amazing to see her character development as she gained self-awareness. Truly all the characters in this book are so multifaceted! But the authentic nature of being a teenager was never lost. Just watching these flawed characters grapple with sexism and internalized misogyny was incredible.
The only thing I was a little let down by was the ending. I didn’t expect one of the characters to have that ending, but the way the book concluded made me have hope for the younger generation to understand these complex situations.
If you liked Sadie by Courtney Summers, I think you will like this book. It’s incredibly powerful book that’s important for understanding rape culture. I hope everyone who reads this book learn something. And I hope those who need to learn a thing or two read it as well.