Review: The Female of the Species

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Goodreads 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.

I think to start there needs to be a sort of notice. While this is technically labeled as a YA, it certainly isn’t. There is murder, metal illness, rape, and molestation. As well as terrible language, drug use, and a lot of questionable behavior by minors.

I really don’t understand how the age of the character is what determines the genre for YA and NA books.

All that being said. This book was so compelling and well written and I couldn’t put it down.

McGinnis has written about some really dark things, but always focuses on survival. And while I wasn’t too big of a fan of her historic novel, she jumps her game up exponentially with this book. She uses some of the darkest aspects of human nature as a setting, but somehow brings humor and life to it.
I really enjoyed the variety of characters, their personal struggles with their own identities and how they are expected to be perceived by society. Beyond the more troubling aspects that I mentioned in the disclaimer, this novel takes on daily struggles like social status, slut shaming, and the social reactions to behavior by males and females.
As I said before, I could not put this down. These three messed up, genuine, and various degrees of truly good people are so captivating and well developed. It’s about a girl whose irreparably damaged by the murder of her sister; a boy having trouble separating who he is based on what society expects and what he expects of himself; and a girl who’s let people walk over her most of her life and is now finding her voice.
McGinnis does so well at pointing out social inequalities in the way behavior is perceived between boys and girls in such a real and unarguable way. It would be so easy for people to write this off as a feminist rant, but it is so much more and is done is such a relateable way that I don’t see how people can’t see the truth in her examples.
All of the characters go through so much growth. Finding ways to be the people they want to be, while understanding that certain aspects can never truly change. The fact that Alex feels guilt and regret shows so much of how she’s changed. And how Jack and Peekay react to her actions show so much of how they have grown outside of their small town bubbles. They seek change in personal growth, becoming better versions of themselves with the help of their friends, who see the best in them. I loved this book, I loved it’s truth, and I loved the dark humor that made it all a little bit easier to swallow.
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