Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Book Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

I read The Female of the Species because I wanted to. I liked the cover and its eye catching color but it was just any other book I picked up at the library that I was pretty sure I had heard something about, but I didn’t know what.

(Part of ) The Goodreads Summary [click here to go there]:

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.

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. So does Peekay.

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.

My five cent review:

OK. So we know at the beginning of the book that Alex was deeply affected by the murder of her older sister with the prologue basically serving as her confession. She has since separated herself from people, in general, living her life in the shadows and avoiding people, including her mother who brushes past her every now and then to refill her drink. Their little family has suffered more than one blow and they are on the brink of implosion.
 In this way, Alex is similar to those other heroines who join the ranks of the “regular” teen but are somehow slightly distanced from them, maybe due to having been home-schooled or studying in the African wild or whatever. Alex is mechanical, clinical in her approach to other people, describing humans in their basic animal tendencies. She sees herself as a predator now having released a violent side of herself when her sister was killed.

Then, Alex meets people and starts to have a reason to try and act normal. She starts to think of alternatives to her chosen isolation. She falls in love, not just with Jack and PeeKay but with the idea of possibility. The problem is, the world is still filled with animals and Alex is one of few people equipped to handle it. And now her emotional wall, having protected her inner meat, has started to crumble.

Alex is an interesting character and might be worth thinking about in terms of her response to trauma. Jack and PeeKay are well developed supporting characters and are Alex’s connection to the world. They are worth their own stories, though we don’t get to see too much of them before the dramatic end of the story sends readers flailing with broken hearts and full heads. Though, our just- world tendencies required this ending, didn’t it?

This book makes an excellent show of rape culture as a context for girls and how they learn to interact with the world. Even the “slut/ mean girl” gives us a moment of clarity about her motivations and we realize that we are all a little lost in this world of violence and non-justice.

Despite it's lack of "diversity," this book joins my 2016 Must Read list. 

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