The Female of the Species by 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. 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.”
There are a few different levels to this novel, and McGinnis blends them together surprisingly well. First, it’s a fairly straightforward young adult novel about identity. Alex struggles to separate herself from the common perception of “the girl with the murdered sister”. Peekay is juggling being a preacher’s daughter and having a somewhat normal teenage life. Jack wants to move beyond his image as an athletic playboy.
But, as you can probably guess from the synopsis, there’s an element of horror in this tale. Anna’s death, as well as a couple of others that happen, are given just enough details to get your imagination going, but not enough to gross you out. And of course, since our main character is obviously involved in at least one of those murders, the author has her hands full keeping Alex somewhat sympathetic–which she does, believe it or not.
There was another level that I saw in this book, and it’s one that caught me off guard a little bit. It’s about the perception of people in general, and women in particular, when they don’t conform to perceived societal standards. Further, it touches a bit on what happens when a woman dares to step into the territory claimed by men, as shown by the scene where a man asks Alex what she’s doing, and her response is along the lines of “The same as you… whatever I want.” It’s chilling for a number of reasons.
Now add into all of this a twist ending that I didn’t see coming, and you have a book that fits perfectly into the Halloween season. This book grabbed me from beginning to end, and I definitely suggest checking it out.
This book was a personal purchase.
(Description nicked from Goodreads.com.)