Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 20th 2016
Genres: young adult, contemporary, Thrillers
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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.
When I discovered that this was one of the books that was up for grabs at ALA in Orlando, I was dead set on getting my hands on it. Not a Drop to Drink was recommended to me because I needed something different, something that was brave enough to go against the expected and the norm, and I ended up loving that book. Ever since, I’ve had McGinnis on my radar from that point forward.
This was the first ARC that I read, and I’m so happy that I did, because this book didn’t dare disappoint. Instead, it went above my expectations. She did it again – McGinnis delivers something hard, some morally questionable, and something that is going to rip you apart by the end.
There is always something so refreshing about Mindy McGinnis and her writing. I’m not one that finds multiple POVs enjoyable, unless it is done with an experienced author. But The Female of the Species gives the novel a balanced, whole-story feel with the three voices telling the entire story: Alex, Jack and Peekay. I loved the voices of the three characters, and I did love how distinct each person sounded. Each character had their own different thoughts and their own reactions to the situations. It was great to see each vantage point as the story progressed.
I haven’t had the pleasure to say this in a long time, but the lead character, Alex, was wonderful, and I adored her in such a warped sense. I found myself understanding some of the complexities that Alex faced with social situations, such as tackling the fact that people didn’t like her because of who she was, or struggling with her inability to fit in with the rest of her peers. And Alex didn’t wear it as a badge of honor. We all understand, as book nerds, that independence and originality are gifts as we mature, but it does come with drawbacks at a young age as even into adulthood, such as isolation or social issues. I celebrated Alex as a girl who was a badass, but I understood that she felt alone and different. The author wrote her with a perfect balance, without tipping the scales in one direction or the other; there was no self pity or smug pride, just acceptance and frustration about the world.
But when Alex knew to act, she did with her own special touch. I am so happy to be alive during this time, the age of YA heroines that don’t mind a bit of blood and flesh on their hands. While I understand that Alex was dangerous and sometimes scary, I couldn’t help but to cheer for her when she took justice into her own hands. Because who wouldn’t want to do the things she did? Someone who is attempting to rape a girl right there at a party? Yeah, I want to see some blood! If someone killed my own sister? You bet I’d do the same thing Alex did. It was wish fulfillment. Very illegal and frowned upon, but Alex is someone I want to be, if nothing else, just to have the courage to be that individual.
There is a secondary character in the story that I was often conflicted about – the storyline’s “hot chic”, Branley. Sometimes, the girl was a downright bitch, but during other times, she was one of the most human character in the story. The book started out with said girl hooking up and then dating Peekay’s long time boyfriend, which rubbed me the wrong way at the start. I was settling in for some long term girl hate, but the author worked some magic with this story line. She slowly started to show that the girl isn’t the only person to take the blame in this situation – it takes two hands to clap. Peekay slowly understood that her boyfriend wasn’t meant to be with her if it didn’t take very much to break apart their relationship. Branley was cold hearted about it at first, but in her own twisted way, Peekay saw how it was a favor paid to her. The two girls don’t end up the best of friends, but at least there is some level of respect between them in the end. Seriously, I really loved that there was this morally diverse character in the story. Instead of just throwing the pretty girl under the bus and applying the cookie cutter “slut” personality to Branley, she was a real person, with depth, without a sob story, and someone that we could all relate to, hate, and love all at once.
There is the topic of rape that comes up in the story, but it was handled with care, and I was thankful how the author approaches the subject, and how she shows that we still have a long way to go with this subject. There is an attempted rape, rape jokes, and a scene with an attempted sexual assault, but the idea behind it is to get it out in the open, not just a plot point.
The ending of the story is what sold me. There is some dark foreshadowing by Alex, by the description she applies to herself since the loss of her own sister, and to see if come to fruit by the end is almost poetic, but still heart shattering, and one of the best endings I have ever seen. I almost wished it had ended differently, but it was still one of the best. I love it when authors go outside of the comfort zones, and this one definitely fit this description!
The only minor issues I had was that I felt that Jack’s interest was a bit of instalove, a bit too much drug use, and some animal death that is very upsetting.
If you grab for any Fall 2016 release, get this one. The Female of the Species is a story with an awesome female lead, a twisted lesson about love, a bitter lesson about who we are inside, and a touching reminder about the bonds of friendship. I needed this book when I picked it up, and I am always open to more books just like this one.