Book Review: The Female of the Species

Monday, October 24, 2016

I am currently working for a literary agency and scored myself an advanced reader's copy of The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis.

Set in a rural small town in the present, The Female of the Species is a gripping coming-of-age portrayal of the world of high school.  This is a really fast read: it is suspenseful, relatable, and important.  McGinnis has succeeded in creating an honest and unyielding investigation of rape culture.  A high school senior valedictorian candidate-turned-vigilante, Alex, crawls out of social isolation after the brutal rape and murder of her sister.  As she nurtures new relationships with peers, she also seeks revenge against the sexual predators in her hometown.

The Female of the Species is a captivating portrayal of sexism in our society.  Mindy McGinnis’ novel has a high level of narrative urgency that pushes along the plot, the dialogue is realistic, humorous, and well-tailored to each character, and though I felt the ending could be stronger, the story lingered in my head long after I read the last page.  The story begins with Alex’s attack on her sister’s murderer.  We learn how she maps out his daily habit and notes what lies beneath his creepy smile.  “He sits on his porch most of the day, a middle-aged man who might be handsome if you don’t look closely into his eyes and identify what lurks there” (3). I sped through the book and felt somewhat protective of Alex despite her extreme actions.  The plot advances at a rapid pace and the narrative arc is well sculpted: the relationship between Alex and Jack evolves just as it would in real life present with ups and downs and a meet the parents moment. A rumbling tension belies the story.  The grief following the death of Alex’s sister, Anna, is a persistent melody throughout the book.  The community continues to feel her presence, and their grief and shock does not subside easily - outlives Anna.  The plot is punctuated by these palpable waves of emotion that rise and fall in the form of Alex’s rogue anger.  This fusion between realistic reactions, relationships, and events with Alex’s exaggerated responses to sexual crimes that defines the novel

The one qualm I had was that I thought this book was a bit mature to be geared for a "14+" audience.  Because it contains some graphic scenes of violence and animal cruelty - trigger warning - I think the intended audience should be 16 +.  With this in mind, I would recommend it to anyone who is prepared to handle this darker material (there are also many comedic moments in the book!).

© Wild Hearted 2016.

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