Cover of the Female of the Species, with academic-style drawings of a fox, elephant, cat, dog, and a teenage girl

About the Book

Title: The Female of the Species
Published: 2016
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Caution
Talky Talk: Piercing
Bonus Factors: Keith Mars Award For Awesome Dadhood, Female Empowerment
Relationship Status: Devastating

Content Warning: The Female of the Species centers around a theme of sexual violence, specifically the rape and assault of women. The content isn’t exceedingly graphic but is definitely disturbing. With all of that said, don’t let this warning discourage you from reading this book (because it’s pretty phenomenal) unless you are highly sensitive to the topic.

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

GIF from Montell Jordan's music video "This Is How We Do It"

I am ALL ABOUT this cover. It’s creative and almost playful, but there’s something about the design that signals the serious business ahead. Maybe it’s the word “bitch” crossed out—for a small detail, it packs quite a punch.

The Deal:

Three years ago, Alex Craft* became known in her Ohio small town as The Girl Whose Sister Got Raped and Murdered. Her public identity changed overnight, but internally, her original nature, her truest self, was unleashed, transforming her into the person she always was: a person who rights wrongs, a person who delivers justice, a person who kills.

She’s never been normal, and yet, when she’s unexpectedly befriended by Peekay*, the local pastor’s daughter, she finds herself drawn to the idea of a regular existence, one where girls cease to be strangers and boys, particularly one named Jack Fisher*, are intriguing rather than threatening. It’s a world bathed in the light of possibility, but darkness still hovers around the edges, and Alex is soon torn between her desire for rebirth and her need for retribution.

*How great are these names? FYI, Peekay stands for Preacher’s Kid.

BFF Charm: Caution

BFF charm wrapped in yellow "Caution" tape

Much like Waverley in Places No One Knows, Alex is an unlikely heroine who quickly gained my affection in spite of the fact that, on paper, she’s a far cry from bestie material. It speaks to Mindy McGinnis’ talent as a writer that I was able to connect with a character who feels things and does things that I would never, EVER do. Like, in a million years.

Due to her complexity, it’s difficult to describe Alex, so I’ll let McGinnis do the talking with some insight into what makes her tick:

I use my markers as I go from place to place. Seeing evidence of my small rebellions, spots where my wrath was allowed to vent and has impacted the world around me, no longer safely encapsulated inside. My life is made of these tiny maps, my paths always steady as I move inside a constricted area, the only one I should ever be allowed to know.

My violence is everywhere here.

And I like it.

Now before you slowly back away, understand this:

Still, the question remains: What is wrong with you? Because something is, and I know that. I’ve tried to find out, looked up the words and the phrases that seemed as if they should fit. Words like sociopath and psychopath, ones that people like to toss around without knowing what they actually mean. But neither of them fits. They spoke of lack of empathy, disregarding the safety of others—when I am the opposite.

I feel too much. 

It’s safe to say that I’ve never met a protagonist like Alex Craft, and while she’s a little too cold-blooded for the warm fuzzies, I love her with a tenderness that makes my heart break. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

It’s not just that Jack Fisher is the king of the high school and Alex is the quiet weirdo. And it’s not just that Jack sees Alex amidst the sea of pretty and popular girls, and that Alex notices him at all. It’s the fact that Jack is a really good guy, actually, and her desire for him makes Alex want to be a good (read: non-vengeful) girl. Striking in its strangeness, their romance is breathtaking, and though I could’ve used a little less immediate gratification and a few more details (what, we get the gratuitous deets on violence but not on kissing?), these two make for an unforgettable couple.

Talky Talk: Piercing

Given the themes covered, you would think that this book is a punishing read. And, at times, it is. But in the skilled hands of McGinnis, that brutality isn’t a blunt weapon but rather an exquisitely fine instrument that cuts clean and deep to reveal both searing pain and startling beauty. The chapters rotate between the voices of Alex, Jack and Peekay and offer up a contrast in perspective, yet all three narratives are stunning in their rawness and gripping in their emotion. By the time I reached the last page, I was shaken to my core… but I was also inspired–exhilarated, even–because for every unsettling moment, there is a glimmer of hope.

Bonus Factor: Keith Mars Award For Awesome Dadhood

Keith Mars hugging his daughter, Veronica Mars

Thank GOD there are decent grown-ups in this book, because otherwise I REALLY COULD NOT. Yeah, their moms are pretty great, but Peekay and Jack each super lucked out in the dad arena, and there is one scene in particular between Peekay and her father that made me cryyyyyy like a freaking baby. I wish we lived in a world where his words were echoed by all parents, because it’s a message that every single teenager needs to hear: “There’s nothing you can ever do that will make you unwelcome in my house.”

Bonus Factor: Female Empowerment

Buffy the Vampire Slayer looking tough and throwing a punch at the viewer

Look, Alex may be a bit* extreme, but let’s not pretend that watching a female inflict SEVERE harm on a deserving man isn’t immensely gratifying. Girlfriend is as hardcore as badasses come, and though I can’t condone her methods, her fierceness–a spirit that demands respect, an attitude that takes NO shit–is worthy of emulation.

*Okay, a lot.

Relationship Status: Devastating

Book, you absolutely wrecked me. I’ve never, ever met a story quite like yours, and I don’t think I ever will again. Nor do I want to, because there is no substitute for your explosive force and chilling power. You’re gorgeous; you’re lethal; you’re a Beyoncé song with blood and guts. And while my heart needs time to regain its strength (it took quite a beating!), I’ve never felt more proud to be a female of the species.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Katherine Tegen Books. I did not receive money or cocktails for writing this review (dammit). 

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.