Katherine Tegen Books
September 20, 2016
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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.
"Sugar and spice and all things nice, That's what little girls are made of."
That may just be part of a nursery rhyme, but let's face it, girls are expected to be sweet and smiling and nice. They're not supposed to be angry or violent or dangerous. Or kill someone.
Alex Craft isn't what a girl is supposed to be, though.
But this book? The Female of the Species is everything you need.
Sure, someone who knows how to kill someone may not be the optimal example, but Alex and this novel deal not only with rape culture, but also gender stereotypes (and slut shaming). They live in a small town where everyone knows everyone - and everyone's business - yet there are still some definite secrets. Some bigger than others.
There is a great juxtaposition of birth and life and death and destruction in the book. There's the obvious of Alex knowing how to kill, but then there's her work at the animal shelter, there's the way different characters help others find a new life, a new perspective and lots of little (and some bigger) examples. The contrast and the unexpected ways they appeared really added to the story.
I had thought that this was going to be wholly different from McGinnis's last book A Madness So Discreet but it actually wasn't. They both do a superb job challenging what that day's society expects from and allows of women. The way that we see what the characters, their friends and their peers find acceptable, the way they then react to things and the changes we see take place were all incredibly well done.
I don't think I ever would have put Alex Craft's character together with the commentary the novel was able to offer nor would I have expected it to work so, so well. This book is one I am going to recommend and remember for a long time to come.
"But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while is the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll." (pg 202)
thank you to the publisher for my copy of the book to review