The Children’s Book Review | May 21, 2016
Written by Mindy McGinnis
Age Range: 14 and up
Hardcover: 352 pages
What to expect: Contemporary, Murder
In this stunning novel, Mindy McGinnis takes readers on a harsh but compelling journey into the heart of our society’s rape culture and violence against women.
Alex isn’t your average small-town girl. Her older sister was raped, butchered and spread in the forest for animals to eat. Deep down, Alex speaks the language of violence, and repays that debt in kind.
Two years later, Alex and Peekay, the preacher’s kid, are thrown together at the animal shelter. Alex is a regular volunteer, hoping that each animal life she saves will erase the marks on her soul. Peekay comes for her school credit, but takes to the sometimes nasty, sometimes heartbreaking job quickly. And between rescuing abandoned puppies and cleaning kittens, Alex begins to find herself opening up to a real friendship between her and Peekay.
Jack Fisher, local football hero and soon-to-be Valedictorian, has always been aware of Alex. And now she’s coming out of her shell, and Jack can’t look away. Something about her is so appealing, dark. Dangerous. Soon Alex finds herself in the surprising situation of having both a best friend, and a nearly perfect boyfriend.
If it wasn’t for the secret living inside of her, it all might be easy. So when a party leads to a friend almost being raped, Alex snaps. She violently assaults the attacker, scarring him for life. It sets in motion a series of gut-wrenching events that will pull you through the story by the heartstrings.
McGinnis is an enormously talented author of fantasy fiction, and this novel is her first contemporary work. It is a stunning, very necessary look at our society’s obsession with violence, rape and molestation. McGinnis pulls no punches. There’s plenty of swearing, alcohol, sex (consensual and not), as well as murder. But at the heart of the story is Alex, a girl who curbs her hidden violent nature to keep those around her safe. In a Dexter-like move, she’s only harmed those who have harmed others. But her character is not cold, and eventually her arc leads to guilt and devastation. There are no easy answers here. By the end of this tragedy, nearly everyone is guilty of creating the horrible, but necessary, ending.
Told in three separate points of view, each character’s unique voice shines bright and honest. Jack’s way of thinking, his views on life and love, are pitch perfect. Peekay shines and lets readers in on the guilt of her very real or perceived sins, and Alex is…calculating. A clearly different creature than Peekay, but at the core the same. Alex wants to be safe. To be loved. But her life doesn’t hand her that.
The topics are hard to read for some, but THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES would be an excellent choice for high school students. It can start a discussion about violence, sexual abuse and rape, and how women are treated as sexual objects. Young adults would benefit from reading Alex’s harsh reality, and seeing the aftermath of bad choices all around. THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES was an incredible journey into darkness.
About Mindy McGinnis
Mindy McGinnis is the author of Not a Drop to Drink and its companion, In a Handful of Dust, as well as the Edgar Award–winning novel A Madness So Discreet and The Female of the Species. A magna cum laude graduate of Otterbein University with a BA in English literature and religion, Mindy is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio. You can visit her online at www.mindymcginnis.com.
The Female of the Species, by Mindy McGinnis, was reviewed by Denise Mealy. Discover more books like The Female of the Species by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Books with Violence and Contemporary Novels.