Have you ever picked up a book on a whim and been completely blown away? That’s exactly what happened to me with Mindy McGinnis’s The Female of the Species. This book had been on my radar for a while, but wasn’t exactly on my immediate TBR list. To be honest, I didn’t know what it was about, my interest was almost entirely in the cover and title. But sometimes I love picked up books without knowing too much about them, and I really needed a new book that would suck me in. And this one was so much more than I was expecting.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) 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.
The Female of the Species isn’t just a cute young adult story. Yes, the love story did make me feel warm and fuzzy. But it is such a small part of the book, which I think is really important. I loved seeing a young adult novel incorporate romance in a way that wasn’t the center of everyone’s world. There is so much more going on here.
This book is, in essence, a commentary on rape culture. Which is something I didn’t even realize was missing from the YA books I’ve read, but is so, so necessary. I loved reading this book largely because of how it deals with rape culture, and how it plays into society as a whole. There were times when I did think it went a little overboard (just with the sheer number of incidents that occur), but I do like that it addresses many different forms of assault.
While I liked the characters, that was the one area in which this book was lacking something for me. I wanted more. I wanted to get to know the characters a bit more, and felt they were too defined by high school stereotypes. The characters were complex, but didn’t feel like they were. For some reason, their emotions didn’t elicit the same emotions in me, which made it harder to become invested in the story. I did like the characters overall, but I definitely think they could have been better. However, I did appreciate that there was a bit of diversity among the characters, and that they deal with some very complex issues in a really great way.
My favorite part of the book (apart from the social commentary) was the writing. Mindy McGinnis is not afraid of literary writing, and it was so refreshing to see in a YA book. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read plenty of well-written YA novels, but they almost always read as less mature than an adult novel. Which is fine for YA, because it’s meant for an audience that is less mature than the average adult. But this book didn’t shy away from that. The characters might be young adult, but this book read like literary fiction, and I definitely appreciated that!
★★★★★ – The Female of the Species wasn’t quite a five-star read for me (more like four and a half), but I rounded up, because it was really great. Ultimately, I adored the writing and the message. I think this book is extremely important, especially as an addition to the YA genre, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Mindy McGinnis’s writing. (I’ll most likely be picking up A Madness So Discreet next, since I already own a copy.)
I highly recommend The Female of the Species for anyone who is looking to read a young adult novel that deals with important issues. And I think fans of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones might also really like this one; it’s similar, but a bit more contemporary.
If you’ve read this book, let me know what you think in the comments below! Have you read any other good books that deal with rape culture? And do you think it’s important to address that subject in young adult literature?
You can purchase your copy of The Female of the Species on Amazon now.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose The Female of the Species as one of your two free books.
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