Title: The Female of the Species
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: September 20th 2016
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Synopsis: 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. 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 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, 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 nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.
I’m not sure where to start with this review… I have a lot to say, but let’s begin with a short summary first and then dive into my thoughts and feelings.
This story follows three main protagonists who have either been affected by or contributed to rape culture. Years before the story in this novel begins, Alex’s older sister was rapped and killed, while the individual responsible for the crime was never convicted. Thus, Alex takes it upon herself to find and kill this individual as a form of revenge. The second protagonist is Jack – the perfect high student, with great grades and very sporty whom has high aspirations to move out of their small hometown and become something more in life. Lastly, there’s PK (Preacher’s Kid) whom throughout the story engages in a substantial amount of “slut shamming” as she is dumped by her boyfriend for the flirty, pretty, popular girl at school. The lives of these three become entangled after an event that unfolds at a party they were all attending.
There is no doubt that this story covers extremely important topics and approaches them from various point of views: there’s females slut shamming other females, the topic of sexual assault, the aftermath of such events, also covering the “boys will be boys” ideology… For those reasons, and these alone, I would give this book 2 stars. I consider all of the above mentioned important to talk about and bring to young peoples attention – however, this novel had a huge emphasis on portraying men (or boys) in a very “feminist” stereotypical way.
I’m extremely wary of using the term “feminist” – feminism defends gender equality yet this book has the (what I like to call) “modern feminist” ideas of man-hating. Sadly, that’s what “feminism” today stands for to a lot of people, it’s has passed from being something amazing (backing gender equality, both in terms of giving woman AND men equal rights) to completing belittling men, forgetting that in certain aspects/situations us woman have more rights than them. However, focusing back on the novel – I just want to mention a few things that caught my attention when reading this book and led me to these thoughts.
Firstly, there is a huge emphasis on girls/woman being sexual assault victims – all the victims (or nearly-victims) were female, all warnings were mostly directed to the girls to watch out and be careful, completely forgetting that men too are victims of sexual assault. Moreover, there is one particular scene where Jack and Brandy were in bed together. Jack was completely drunk and didn’t know what was going on – yet this was never even bought up as a possible sexual assault situation? Why is this correct when it’s a male who is drunk, yet if when it is a female she is being taken advantage of? I was extremely disappointed that this scene was brushed off as “normal” when it shouldn’t be just because in this scenario the drunk individual is the male.
Secondly, most male characters are portrayed as being girl-obssesed and violent, e.g. Jack’s first few chapters are him literally just commenting on girls appearances and their sexual attraction. This doesn’t occur once in a female characters. Let’s not forget that men also have brains and don’t spend 98% of their time thinking about the looks of other girls/women. Moreover, after finishing the novel, I noticed that every criminal/attacker are males: the assault on PK was conducted by a group of boys, a male was presumed to be Alex’s sister murderer, a male throw the puppies out of a his car window which resulted in most dying and, of course, a female reported the incident. As if no decent males existed in the world…
Lastly, I feel like the opinions of men in this novel can be summarised by actually quoting it (both quotes are from chapter 33):
– “Decent guys backslide into meth and gang rape. Good guys knock up their girlfriends and flip burgers” – no other types of guys exist, huh?
-“[…] I’ve convinced myself that I can earn it by being a good guy, that getting out and staying out is how karma is going to reward me for not hitting the next joint and turning down every drunk girl who crawls into my lap at a party” – because that’s exactly what being a “good guy” means?
Now, I understand that in this particular novel we follow the point of view of only one male character, and he could a famale-obsessed, drunk, joint smoker and not have a decent thoughts. But what annoyed me most was that there was no mention of a decent guy in this book, lets not forget that at the end of the book Alex isn’t exactly a saint either…
Overall, I think this novel covers an important topic yet I don’t think it dealt with it in a gender-equal way or as well as it could have been dealt with. I want to emphasise that I in no way mean to offend anyone who enjoyed this book or agrees with the ideas portrayed in it – everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I simply wanted to talk about a few things that caught my attention and I think they are also worth mentioning.