The Female of The Species by Mindy McGinnis
Published: September 20th, 2016
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
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.
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“Anna told me I would understand boys one day. She said that everything would change and I would look at them differently, assess their bodies and their words…Then my sister was gone and I thought: I understand about boys now. And she was right. Everything did change. I look at them differently and I assess their bodies and watch their eyes and weigh their words. But not in the way she meant.”
“Then I turn around, and tell him who I am. This is how I kill someone. And I don’t feel bad about it.”
Alex Craft is a girl who knows how to kill someone. Her sister was murdered in a brutal way and the killer walked free three years ago. She always had violence inside her and now it was time to unleash it. So, Alex kills the man in the most violent and unimaginable way and she too gets away with it. Now three years later Alex tries to move on with life and stay away from people because she doesn’t feel she can be around people. But, Jack, the school’s star athlete walks into her life as well as Peekay, a girl from school that she works with, are both embedding their selves into her life. As Alex lets more people in her violent nature unravels more. As things get crazier their lives get more intertwined and they get set on a course that will change them forever. The book really starts off with a bang. The story is a very unflinching look into rape culture, slut shaming, and sexual assault. Chapter 23 was one of my favorites because it shows how a lot of the characters looked at rape.
“The books didn’t help me find a word for myself; my father refused to accept the weight of it. And so I made my own. I am vengeance.”
“You see it in all animals—the female of the species is more deadly than the male.”
The writing is very complex and dimensional. This was one of those stories that you really have to read to understand. I don’t know how to describe a story that is so thought-provoking besides saying to just read it and experience it. The story really makes you question everything and start a discussion. I do have to warn you the story is graphic and triggering but necessary to this raw story. They needed to be talked about so readers could really understand this topic and have important discussions. Trigger warnings for violence, death, rape, sexual assault, molestation and animal abuse. Some of these triggers are raw and upfront while others are only mentioned. I really appreciated the author writing Peekay’s Christian parents in a good light. The story is raw and fundamental to today’s society. The story hits so many major points in double standards between boys and girls regarding how they are “supposed” to be in regards to sex and sexuality. A boy has multiple sex partners and loves sex and he is a God. A girl who loves sex and has multiple sex partners and she is easy, a slut, and her reputation is forever tarnished. A female sex worker who chose that path will be looked down on but the pimps who own them are godly. A girl can be sexually assaulted and the world will look down on her but the perpetrator can walk away Scott free because “boys will boys,” “are we really going to send him to jail and ruin his life for one mistake.” As if the one mistake won’t follow that girl forever. As if that one mistake won’t haunt her forever. As if now she won’t be more afraid to walk alone or fear for her life when she sees a man. As if even the thought of someone touching her won’t set off her fears or take her back to that time. As a society, we HAVE to do better for victims of these crimes and this book opens that wound raw and makes you FACE it. We have to better for ALL women EVERYWHERE. We can’t stand up only when it affects us. Our silence is just as bad as the people who let these assaulters walk away. This applies to men as well. We can not silence or forget the male victims that go through this as well.
“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.”
“Anger makes you tired, but guilt keeps you from falling asleep.”
All the characters were very complex and layered just like the story. Alex was vengeful, cunning, calculating, patient, sarcastic, honest, and intelligent. She was the definition of an anti-hero and she was one of the most intriguing and twisted female characters I ever had the pleasure of reading. Alex was unapologetically herself. She knows she’s not perfect and that her violent nature isn’t safe for people but she is an amazing person. Alex does the things that people think. Jack was Mr. popular but there was more to him than just sports and his looks. He was a guilt-ridden boy and wanted to be the best person he could be. His flaws made him more real. He wasn’t the typical hero-complex male character. Of, course he had trouble accepting things he learned about Alex as any person would but he couldn’t let her go. Peekay was the preacher’s kid who wanted to shake that image from her life. She truly believed in God but she hated the preconceived notions that preachers kids had to act a certain way. I truly loved her growth as someone who went from slut-shaming to learning the dangers of that thinking. All the side characters like Park, Branley, Sara, Peekay’s parents, Alex’s mom, and even the men who committed some heinous acts all really rounded out the story. As I said this story from the plot to the writing to the characters were all intertwined and were woven into this immaculate and intricate story. Alex is a girl that affected many people around her and by the end (page 340 hits you right in the heart) you see how much she really changed people and their way of thinking.
“It’s impossible to know what any one of us will do in a given situation. Especially intense ones.” “Alex Craft,” he says. “I think every situation with you is an intense one.”
4) Romance & Friendship
“And for some reason, I interrupted our heavy makeout session to tell her that if she’s not ready to do it, that’s okay. “I know it’s okay,” she says again, totally confident in being a virgin. And damn if it isn’t the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard her say.”
I really loved this aspect of the story because just like everything else it multi-dimensional. You had two flawed people who knew each other but then again didn’t. Jack was immersed in Alex from the moment he saw her but senior year he truly saw her. Alex didn’t let people in but as she got to know Jack she let some walls crumble and let him see her. This relationship was so interesting and I couldn’t get enough. I felt myself dissecting every moment and word. I would compare their relationship to Mara and Noah from the Mara Dyer trilogy but x10. They were so right and so wrong and that ending really hit’s you so hard. I never expected to cry but the ending and especially last page had me bawling my eyes out. It was the ending that made the most sense but damn it hurts so much to think about. The friendship that blossoms between Alex and Peekay were like her relationship with Jack in the sense that this was two girls who didn’t know the other but did. Alex let Peekay into her life and she protected her and vice versa. This was a friendship unlike any other and I loved every minute of it.
“Her name and mine will be linked forever, our names and faces the first thing that comes to mind when the other is mentioned. And that’s exactly what I want.”
“Something that rightfully belongs to only us resurrected once again as a cautionary fairy tale, a warning to all the Little Red Riding Hoods that there are wolves in the forest.”
“Words like sociopath and psychopath, ones that people like to toss around without knowing what they actually mean. But neither of them fits. They spoke of lack of empathy, disregarding the safety of others—when I am the opposite. I feel too much.”
“It’s easier to like animals than people, and there’s a reason for that. When animals make a mistake, you laugh at them…But when a person doesn’t understand something, if they miscalculate and hit the brakes too late, blame is assigned.”
“Define success,” I say almost to myself. “I didn’t kill anyone today,” Alex says. I laugh again. “A-plus, babe.”
“My violence is everywhere here. And I like it.”
“I live in a world where not being molested as a child is considered luck.”