The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
About: 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.
Kelsey’s Thoughts: This book is intense, both emotionally and plot-wise. If I am being honest, it’s hard to read sometimes. Women, both young and old, have experienced what these characters have. The harassment, the unwanted touches, the assault. We may not have been one of the “one in four,” but we have probably known someone who was. And so getting through some of these pages, some of the passages raw and open, is hard at times. The actions of the men around these young women are hard to look at.
McGinnis takes a very dark and unflinching look at rape culture, and I appreciate the honesty she gives her characters. So often in young adult literature that deals with these complicated and horrific situations, we see the victim in one dimension. She is broken and vulnerable and alone. The Female of the Species explores the anger and conflict left behind afterwards, and exposes the nasty details of pitting girls against girls when only young men are the winners. It’s a very important look at learned sexism and internalized misogyny.
The Female of the Species is certainly not for everyone, but I could not put it down. I finished it in less than a day, and it has stayed with me far longer than that.