Published by HarperCollins on September 20th 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
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Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.
Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.
As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.
This is how I kill someone.
And I don’t feel bad about it.
BRUTAL. That’s how I would describe this book. It sits there all unassuming with its cute yellow cover and pictures of animals, but underneath it has some serious fangs. Rather like the female of the species, I suppose.
Quick warning: this book may not be suitable to those sensitive to rape and/or animal cruelty. Make no mistake, it’s a nasty book. At times it’s absolutely disgustingly awful. But it’s a very sharp and effective look at sexual assault and rape culture too. And somehow so fucking funny. Well, maybe if you have a sadistic sense of humour, which it turns out I do.
I don’t even know how to adequately explain it. The Female of the Species is told from the perspective of three different characters – Alex, whose sister was raped and murdered; Jack, the popular guy who desperately wants to get to know Alex; and Peekay, the preacher’s kid whose ex-boyfriend ditched her for the beautiful Branley, and who now works at the animal shelter with Alex.
Alex is haunted by her sister’s murder. She is detached, strange, and knows there’s something wrong with her. That there always has been. When she kills her sister’s murderer and gets away with it, she realizes she might not be able to stop.
It’s a very dark, unflinching look at rape culture, slut-shaming and the long-lasting effects of sexual assault; not just on the victims, but on those close to them.
I’m living my life waiting for the man who comes for me like one did for Anna, with hungry eyes behind the wheel and rope in the trunk.
All of the characters are so complex and well-developed, not just in themselves but also in their relationships with their families and each other. Obviously, we know we shouldn’t agree with Alex’s methods of taking the law into her own hands, but it’s difficult to not adore her and see her as a kind of twisted hero. There’s a lot of examples like that in this book – the fine line between what we know we should do and what we really feel.
So many interesting tidbits about human nature are woven into the story. Alex’s straight-talking unravels why we do the things we do, and the misconeptions we hold about other people and relationships. Also, she does an amazing takedown of slut-shaming:
“You shouldn’t be that way about her,” Alex says. “I hear what people say and I bet half of it isn’t even true. And even if it is – fine. She’s no different from you and me; she wants to have sex. So let her…She likes boys, and she can get them. You were hurt by that, but it wasn’t Branley who hurt you. It was Adam.”
There are so many ways this could have ended, but the author chose the one that hit the hardest. Right in the feels. It’s like someone just punched my heart right out of my chest. It was completely evil and the perfect ending to a book like this.