Monday, November 14, 2016

The Female of the Species - Mindy McGinnis

Title: The Female of the Species
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins), 2016 (Hardcover)
Length: 341 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: November 9, 2016
Finished: November 14, 2016

From the inside cover:

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 he 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, and now her green eyes amend 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 side breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever. Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis artfully crafts three alternating perspectives into a dark and riveting exploration of what it means to be the female of the species.

This book is positively brutal, harsh, and traumatizing...and I'm so glad it exists. It stands as an unapologetic examination of sexual assault and rape culture in general, delving deep into what insidious little jokes and "locker room talk" can turn into.

Alex Craft is in her senior year of high school in a small town. When she was a freshman, her older sister Anna was raped and murdered, and the killer walked on a technicality. So Alex took matters into her own hands and got away with her own crime. Years later, she lives on the outskirts of her peers to keep them safe from herself, until Peekay (from PK aka preacher's kid) sees beyond Alex's standoffish behaviour and sees a girl she'd like to know. Jack, the popular boy whose image of Alex from the night her sister's body was found haunts him, yearns to be closer to her. When both Peekay and Jack slowly become accepted by Alex into her limited circle, they believe they have an idea of who Alex is. One might when Peekay is nearly raped at a party and Alex intervenes in a horrific way, they realize that Alex is so much more than what they assumed, and wonder how to proceed with what they now know.

The novel alternates perspectives from Alex, Peekay, and Jack; and I have to give the author credit because giving three unique and distinctive viewpoints and voices isn't easy, especially when that includes a voice of the opposite gender. Jack's voice is authentic and very different from the girls', Peekay is your average teenage girl but with enough of a spin so that she's not boring to read, and Alex....Alex is just astounding in terms of what's inside her head....just trust me on this one.

I love the author's examination of rape culture; women reading this will stop dead in their tracks after reading certain lines and think, "holy crap, this is spot on," while men will hopefully gain some insight into their male privilege in this area. That being said, the book is quite graphic and violent, both in terms of the language used and that actual events that take place during the course of the book (so trigger warnings abound here, people). Granted, you can't sugarcoat rape culture, it's dirty and horrible by it's very nature. But even saying that, this is definitely for older readers (probably 16+), this isn't something I'd be recommending for an immature/innocent thirteen or fourteen year old kid.

I'm slightly conflicted about how the book ends, on one hand I think it's a bit of a cop-out, but on the other hand I think there really wasn't any other way for it to end, so I'm still undecided on how I feel about the ending.

I truly think this is something all our teenagers need to read, both boys and girls alike. This will be one of those groundbreaking "issue" books that will stay with us for years.

Thoughts on the cover:
Quite clever in my opinion. I like how Alex is listed on the front under "Woman" and Branley is listed one the back cover under "Girl", this will make total sense after reading the book.

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