Ellen's Reviews > The Female of the Species

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
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May 15, 2017

it was amazing
bookshelves: books-read-in-2017, contemporary, friendship-centric, tragedy, ya
Read from May 12 to 15, 2017

Wow. I was totally expecting another punch in the feels from Mindy McGinnis. What I wasn't expecting was an insightful, agonizing look at what it takes to dismantle rape culture.

After Alex's sister is murdered, Alex hunts down and murders her killer in turn. That's a pretty bleak premise, but it sucked me in from the start. I loved that Alex was the kind of girl who simultaneously refused to fall victim to bystander syndrome, while also acknowledging that it isn't normal or well-adjusted to take action the way she does. The very short scene in which she draws the distinction between herself and a sociopath because she "feels too much" hurt my heart. Alex's volunteer work at the local animal shelter provided an excellent context for how her mind works and how her protective instincts work, although I would've loved to have seen more of her interacting with wounded dogs and stray cats.

I also appreciated that McGinnis avoided including an actual rape scene in the story, and that she wrote several different types of girls with different values--from Peekay, the preacher's kid to Branley, who sleeps around--without demonizing any of them. That said, my biggest complaint about THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is how little Peekay's perspective added to the story as a whole. Her friendship with Alex was one of my favorite things about the book, but I would've been content to learn about her and watch her evolve without being inside her head.

Part of me also wishes that Alex had been given the opportunity to rejoin high school society without the encouragement of a boyfriend, or that she'd been a little more hesitant about getting involved with Jack in the first place. Don't get me wrong - I was glad that McGinnis chose to include a male POV in a book about sexual violence, and I was glad to see Jack unpacking some of his own misconceptions about rape and misogyny, but Alex was such a force of nature that I kind of hated to see her softened so much by their romance.

These are minor complaints, though, compared to how much this book made me feel and think. Nobody is a villain here EXCEPT the rapists, which was such an important distinction to draw. Because even though the rest of the characters make plenty of bad decisions, they're also the ones who can choose to be better. To speak out when their friends are in danger and call out their peers for normalizing sexual assault. If anything, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES serves as an important reminder that it isn't rapists who promote rape culture. It's the rest of us. And for that, I'd recommend it to everyone.
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03/11 marked as: to-read
05/12 marked as: currently-reading
05/15 marked as: read

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