Friday, 16 September 2016

ARC Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis.

SYNOPSIS AND SPOILER-FREE REVIEW:

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.

The Female of the Species is a story told from three different POVs: Alex Craft (the main character), Peekay (the preacher's kid), and Jack (the charismatic and popular boy at school). I have some contradictory feelings towards having different perspectives in this book, especially at the beginning, where I felt super lost and out of the plot because I could not connect to any of the narrators. As I could not tell who was the one narrating because I did not know the characters and the chapters were too short for me to, I felt very distant to the story and felt a bit disappointed that I was not feeling anything for anyone. However, as the story kept on writing itself, I found myself really enjoying the constant jumping between the POVs. What at first seemed to annoy me so much quickly became in what gave the story the good pace, light and fast. I was about a third of the book in when I started growing a kind of affection for some of the characters -especially Jack.

So, let's discuss the characters. Alex Craft is a really well developed main character, with so much potential. She is a powerful broken soul looking for justice. Past events made her the way we see her: strong and brave, fearless. But there is a lot more than what we can initially see, so much more that we get to witness and understand as the story goes on. She seeks to protect those who need help, whatever it takes, which is constantly mistaken with insanity and cruelty by others. What she so desperately looks for is justice, not vengeance, but she is the only one who sees it like that in a world where not being molested as a child is considered luck, as the book itself quotes. I came to love Alex Craft for her selflessness and that huge heart of hers.

Peekay is the definition of the kind of friend I want to read about. But my appreciation goes beyond the friendship she builds with Alex. Peekay as an individual is pure and relatable, the girl we all come across when we are young. The girl whose parents know nothing about her daughter's true identity, the one who does what she is not supposed to. She feels caged, trapped inside her own house, conditioned by her dad's title. Even her name is a constant reminder of who she should be, the perfect preacher's kid who she herself does not recognise. With Peekay we get to see an incredible development, and it is great to witness.

Jack Fisher. This one I really got to adore and understand. The Jack we meet and the Jack we say goodbye to have nothing in common. It may have been his interest in Alex what changed him, but I think we must attribute that development to himself and his own realization of who he really wants to be and who he wants to absolutely run away from. We do see him struggling up until the end of the story, and as much as we might hate some of his thinking at some points, we get to understand it a little bit. He is a definitely cute guy to have a crush on, and I am grateful that I got to read from his POV, because that is when you meet him, the real him.

About the romance in this novel, I do not have a lot to say. I think it was a rushed yet cute and intense insta-love that I really enjoyed. The external factors are what made it a worthy relationship, a sincere and even believable one, maybe not at the beginning, but definitely at the end, when all the characters have gone through crazy development and we get to comprehend them.

Alex, Peekay and Jack are all thrown into the same plotline, going through their senior year and dealing with teenagers' struggles. This is the part where teen readers get to relate to the story the most, surrounded by friendships and romantic dramas, prom approaching and one too many parties to attend. This is the part that brings you close to the characters, the one that makes sure you will go with them through whatever it is they have to face. We also get to see some Senior Year Experience spent at an animal shelter, with abandoned kittens and puppies that will end up being more significant than just that. They are, in some way, the key to the story. You grow attached to those cute creatures and you wonder how anyone could be enough of a monster to hurt them. I do not know if Mindy's intention was to compare the human race to animals, but if it wasn't I am surprised by how much I feel it that way, and how much I love it.

The thing I like the most about this novel is how raw it is, because it tells you things you may not want to know but that you should know about. It shows you the world as it really is: cruel, unfair. And you can only keep on reading, horrified by the events taking place, knowing that as much as you are hating to read about it, you are actually grateful that someone had the courage to grab a pen and some paper and write it all down. Because now you know. To some eyes this story might seem a dystopian one, with the crazy society supporting the rape culture, animal abuse and even murder. But what we must realize, and I think Mindy did a great job at making us, is that the awful society portrayed in these pages is our own, the one we live in nowadays.

I would describe this as a dark and realistic eye-opener tale, a bittersweet truth we all should listen to.

The Female of the Species is not a novel to fangirl about but one to learn from. You learn the truth reading about characters who had to learn it the hard way. And it makes you sad and emotional, and even mad, and I think that is what a world-changing book should make you feel. The anger this story builds in the reader, the scary feeling of reading about our own broken society, the insane, heart-racing realisation that we are living in that kind of world and we are doing nothing to stop it... that is what makes this page-turner a must-read novel.

RATING:


Thank you so much, Harper Collins, for sending me an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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