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.
This BOOK! As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew I had to pre-order The Female of the Species. I was so intrigued by the opening line of the synopsis. A teenager so cold and cruel that she has already killed someone when we meet her. I’m not giving away any spoilers by revealing this, it is explained in the synopsis and the opening chapters of the book. And anyway, the point is not that Alex Craft meticulously plotted and killed her sister’s murderer, its why she did it. It was fascinating venturing into the mind of Alex Craft and even learning to sympathize with her. Not only is this book about an unusual subject, it is an extremely important story that exemplifies the subtler aspects of rape culture, a subject I was not expecting before opening this book. If you are looking for a book that is different, original, disturbing and yet give an important lesson- you need to read this book.
The book opens with Alex carefully planing the murder of her sister’s killers. She explains to the reader “this is how I kill someone” as she runs by his house every day, planning and thinking about killing him. Yes, this sounds disturbing. But it was also intriguing. Who was this girl and why was she so angry? What kind of frame of mind was she in that she wanted to kill someone? We then learn that Alex is a seemingly normal high school girl, still mourning her sister’s death. She isn’t very social at school and doesn’t have many friends. Her relationship with her mother has been strained since her sister’s death.
As part of a senior project, Alex volunteers at the animal shelter. She is surprisingly sweet with the animals, making us re-think her original violent tendencies. The animal shelter is also where we meet Peekay. Her name is “PK,” or short for “Preacher’s Kid.” Peekay is a great character and I loved watching her relationship develop with Alex. Alex is strange, seems to be overly proper when she speaks (when she speaks), and yet Peekay breaks through some of those barriers and develops a friendship with Alex.
We are also introduced to Jack. He is the star football player, student and is all around popular. He is attracted to Alex, and the more they interact the more he is fascinated by her. However, the closer he gets to Alex, the more he realizes that she has a darker side she does not show to everyone.
As the story unfolds and we learn more about Alex’s character. Another important theme emerged that I was not necessarily expecting. There were some subtle (and not so subtle) references to rape and rape culture. Yes, there are some graphic scenes of attempted rape but the scenes that really made me stop and think were the subtle ones. The graffiti. The language people use during class or in social settings. The language we all write off as acceptable, when it really is not acceptable. Alex was very attuned to this language and so was, by default, the reader. Alex’s sister was sexually assaulted before she was killed, and the mention of rape became somewhat of a trigger for Alex to bring out her more violent tendencies.
If this book at all sounds intriguing to you, I highly suggest you pick it up. It was well-written, well-paced and has an important message. As fascinating as I found Alex’s character, I still had a difficult time connecting with her. Even when I understood her character better, she was a little too extreme to seem ‘real’ for me. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this book- although it was extremely dark and disturbing at times. It also had its happy and light moments, when you thought things would actually turn out okay. It challenged the way I view people and made me angry the way our culture normalizes rape and sexual assault. The Female of the Species is one of the most original books I have read this year, and I highly recommend it!