The Female of the Species - Mindy McGinnis

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.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be. 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. 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.

This cover, this title, and a few great book talks from HarperCollins reps, and I just couldn't help but put this book on the to-read list! And I was NOT disappointed! I should note that if you are a fan of Mindy McGinnis's previous books, especially Not a Drop to Drink, this book is a whole other beast, though McGinnis's signature awesomeness is still evident.

Where the suspense in Not a Drop is quiet and the long range of the narrative arc is drawn out, the action is Female of the Species is very much fast-paced, urgent, and contains a number of shorter narrative arcs that work themselves into the longer run of the novel. McGinnis is seriously talented when it comes to thrillers, revealing just enough to keep readers engaged but not so much that they know what's coming. She also manages to navigate the murky waters of sexual assault, rape, and empowerment.
All around us, people flinch at the word rape, and it's so ridiculous I almost start laughing. [She] is unconscious, her body flowing like water through Branley's arms as she tries to get her into an upright position. Her shirt is torn open so far I can see her bra. Her jeans are unbuttoned. Her jeans are unbuttoned, already pushed a few inches below her underwear. Yet the word rape still jolts people, like maybe these guys were just dragging her out to the woods to help [her] take a piss.
I really enjoyed the alternating perspectives, from Jack to Peekay to Alex, and hearing their own approaches to the events in the novel, and how they each react as they find out more about Alex's motivations and deeper, darker, Dexter-like inner demons (there's my alliteration for the day). Even the secondary characters, from Alex's mom, to Officer Nolan, to Branley (Branley perhaps even more than others, in terms of her own self-realizations related to her value and sex appeal). And there's other great discussion from other characters about inequality between different genders:
Boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.
Peekay's angst and rebelliousness is actually pretty interesting, and her family situation doesn't fall into cliches of religious intolerance or stereotype. And Jack, though a womanizer and a rather frustrating individual at times, grows and develops throughout the course of events, and his relationship with Alex calls much into question about his personal motivations where sex and love are concerned.

This is a novel that will keep teen readers engaged, guessing, and entertained. I Highly Recommend The Female of the Species because of its appeal as a mystery/thriller, and because it is just so well written and contains some really kick-ass feminist content!

(NOTE: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out Sept. 20, 2016)

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