Book Reviews

Review: The Female of the Species By Mindy McGinnis


Published: September 20th 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books

Source: Local Library

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 344

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller

Synopsis: 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.

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Spoiler Free Review:

The main reason I wanted to read this book is because of the focus on rape culture. Rape is something I’ve only heard of, but it stands as one of my worst nightmares and fears. It’s honestly so terrible that people have to live in a society where we live in fear of someone taking our dignity away by sexual assault. Throughout my life, rape has been something barely brought to the surface, always pushed to the side. People would murmur about it in secret, crack jokes about claiming that the victim was asking for it. Despite the issues I had this book, it’s message was clear and I’m so appreciative to the author for writing an impactful story. 

The plot revolves around the overarching message on rape culture. It takes place in a Southern small town where most of the teenagers are oblivious and ignorant about sexual assault. Throughout the course of the story, Alex motivates the main characters to open their eyes to rape culture. To acknowledge that it exists and can happen to you or one of you can even inflict it on to someone else. I think Mindy McGinnis did a really great job at bringing rape culture to the surface and identifying it as an issue. 

“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 quote really sums up on so many prevalent, misogynistic issues in today’s society. As someone who witnesses so many boys being excused for their disgusting behavior, this line speaks to me. I’ve always wondered why there was the term boys will be boys but never girls will be girls. It took me a while to realize that whenever a girl does try to be herself, she’s immediately shunned and shamed for her behavior. 

There was also the issue of slut shaming which again was dealt with wonderfully. You shouldn’t be that way about her,” Alex says. “I hear what people say and I bet half of it isn’t even true. And even if it is – fine. She’s no different from you and me; she wants to have sex. So let her…She likes boys, and she can get them. You were hurt by that, but it wasn’t Branley who hurt you. It was Adam.” I remember so many times when my one friends would look at the way a certain girl would dress and automatically judge her for the amount of makeup she wore and how revealing her clothes were. See, the girls who consistently slut shame are not immediately bad, just misguided and are acting on instinct. They immediately see something that society claims is terrible and it makes them feel good to judge someone else to make themselves feel better. Once again, McGinnis did an amazing job at taking down slut shaming. 

Despite McGinnis’s great messages, I did want their to be more representation. All of the characters were white and there was only one very minor character that was lesbian. By adding POC and people of different sexualities would make the message seem even more clearer. That anyone can be raped, regardless of race or sexuality. 

The story is told through three perspectives, Alex, Jack and Peekay. Out of the three, I found Alex’s chapters to be the most intriguing, Peekay’s the most redeemable and Jack’s chapters were just irritatingly boring. Alex had the most interesting mind out of all them, her chapters were morbidly fascinating. Her thoughts differed from the “average teenager”, she was so much more self aware on societal issues on rape culture and slut shaming. I loved how Alex quietly motivated the characters in this book, they gradually opened their eyes through her actions and words. Alex was still very flawed and had her own demons to deal with. I’ll admit I was half expecting a main character driven by anger and grief, someone who clearly has anger management issues, the more bad-girl-esque character. Alex was more so driven by purpose along with grief. As problematic her methods of punishing the rapists were, she still made me feel like they were justified. Alex was definitely the most relateable and powerful character.

Peekay is your average “I’m a good girl to everyone else but in reality, I drink and I’m a supposed bad girl in my head.” In the beginning, I didn’t like her much, she was hung up on an idiotic ex-boyfriend and there was a lot of girl hate and slut shaming towards one of her classmates. I did like her friendship with Alex since I haven’t read a genuine female friendship in a while. Overall, Peekay was a pretty redeemable character, so I decided to give the benefit of the doubt. Then there is Jack, the quintessential, popular white f*ckboy.  To be completely honest, I didn’t see the appeal in his character as a love interest. I would have liked a friendship over a romance (always) and it felt too forced and just meh, in general. Though I do the purpose of his character, I ended up not liking him very much. 

Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, it did take me by surprise. The more I think about it, the ending was pretty powerful and did leave an impact. Even after finishing it, I still find myself thinking about the story and its message. Overall, I would highly recommend this book for everyone, especially teenagers. As someone who attends high school and witnesses so many of these issues taking place in this book, I’m hoping that this story will open some eyes to the disgusting horrors of rape culture. 

Rating: 4/5


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