Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 20th 2016
Genres: young adult, contemporary
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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 a book has you curled into the fetal position sobbing at 4 am upon finishing, you know it made an impact on you. I’ve read three out of four of Mindy McGinnis’ books and I can honestly say I have loved all of them. They’ve all been very different, and this one is her first contemporary. I don’t read a lot of contemporary books, but The Female of the Species is my favorite Mindy McGinnis book.
The reason is pretty simple. I love Alex Craft. I connected with her on such a pure, basic level. I got her. I never questioned the things she did, even if many others would have found them wrong. I get it. I get why she did them. I can’t say I would have done the same, but I also can’t say that I wouldn’t have. Love and loss that deep can make you do some very disturbing and dark things. Alex says at one point, “I just feel things.” That quote really stuck with me because I’ve always believed that I felt more emotions than most people. It’s either that, or other people just know how to handle and deal with their emotions better than I do. I’ve always overreacted. Been paranoid. Gotten angry or upset over something that maybe others could stay stable through. I worry about myself because when my grandfather died, I cried nonstop at his funeral for hours and hours without a break. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t function. I had all these feelings and nowhere to put them. And no one wanted to be around me which was understandable, but when a person gets like that I understand how they could act out, maybe commit murder because they can’t deal with the things going on inside them. It’s a very scary place to be, so I understood Alex. And somehow the author made a relatable character who almost no one would understand if she were a real person.
Alex’s sister Anna was murdered by a man who never went to prison because by the time they find Anna’s body, all the evidence has been contaminated by animals and there is nothing to tie him to the crime, even though everyone in town knows he did it. Alex simply can’t deal with the idea of this man getting away with killing the most precious person in her life so she takes matters into her own hands and removes him from earth herself. I bet a lot of readers are against another human playing god like this. But what happens when the justice system fails you? What happens when you become so damaged and mentally ill that the idea of this person continuing to live their lives and very likely doing this to another girl messes you up so badly? Well, you do what Alex did.
Alex tries to live a normal life after this. She tries to stay away from people so she doesn’t hurt anyone else because she knows something is very wrong with her inside. And for a while she succeeds until Jack and Peekay enter her life. The story is told from the perspectives of three different characters: Alex, Jack (Alex’s boyfriend and one of the popular kids at school), and Peekay (the preacher’s kid and a girl who works with Alex at the local animal shelter).
I don’t want to ruin the book for potential readers, but I have to mention that it is a very dark, very violent, bloody book. There are several scenes of disturbing animal violence, including a slaughterhouse scene that I could have done without but I get why the theme of violence was woven into the story the way it was.
I’ve noticed some reviews from people that didn’t like the book saying that the reason was because they lacked an emotional connection to the characters. I don’t get it, but I respect it. This is probably not a book for everyone, and I actually didn’t think I would like it either because violent, dark, contemporary fiction is usually not my thing, but it just appears that Mindy McGinnis really speaks to me on a personal level. This is one of my favorite books of 2016, and we’ll see at the end of the year if it remains at the top of the list, but I’m thinking it more than likely will.