Every once in awhile you come across a book that you know is important, The Female of the Species is one of those. The story goes that this is originally the first novel that McGinnis ever wrote, and when she was asked by Harper Collins to produce a contemporary novel, she went back to it, ripped it apart, and this finished product is the result, and I’m so glad that it is.
McGinnis isn’t known for pulling bunches. All of her previous novels, a Dystopian duology, and a historical standalone (all YA) have dealt with some pretty intense moral questions. But none of her previous works hold a candle to the deep, dark, gruesomeness of The Female of the Species. This book is as dark as they come folks, and for very good reason. This book is a commentary on rape culture, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Told from three points of view, this story looks at what happens when people get away with bad things. Alex Craft becomes a vigilante-type-anti-hero after her sister Anna is raped and murdered. Jack Fisher is the boy who falls in love with Alex, but has issues of his own. Peekay (her nickname because she’s a preacher’s kid) is the girl who becomes Alex’s first friend, and Alex hasn’t had one of those in a long time. It’s what happens when these three teens come together that gives this novel its bones.
Though this story is brutal, and trust me it is, McGinnis makes sure that she adds some bright bits into the darkness as well. The relationships that Alex starts to form are important, and she’s fiercely protective of her small clan. It also speaks to what happens when girls put aside their differences and support each other. There is a fourth character that has a large part to play in the plot, Branley, and though she makes different choices than the other girls in the novel, her voice is just as important.
I will tell you that this book is graphic, and if things like sexual assault, rape, attempted rape, murder, animal cruelty, not to mention, sexual situations involving teens, and sexual conversations are triggers for you, this is your warning. That being said, this book is one of the most thought provoking novels that I’ve read all year. And like always, McGinnis makes sure to provide a hard lesson while wrapping it up in an excellent story.
Read more books by Mindy McGinnis:
- Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
- In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis
- A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
What are some of your favorite novels that deal with the tough stuff?
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