Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Female of the Species

Author: Mindy McGinnis
Info: Katherine Tegen Books, copyright 2016, 352 pages

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.

~Goodreads Description

I had the pleasure of meeting Mindy at our local high school last fall and was surprised at how much I enjoyed Not a Drop to Drink.  When Margot over at Epic Reads listed Mindy's newest title, The Female of the Species, as her favorite of 2016, I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Here's the problem...I read this immediately following Jeff Zentner's, The Serpent King.  And I was really impressed with Jeff Zentner's, The Serpent King.  While the plot is different, they are both dark, tough realistic fiction titles.

Alex doesn't really have an anger management problem, just a "you wrong me I will end you in a very violent way" kind of problem.  The thing is, she knows this about herself, recognizes and embraces the impulses, and does her best to stay away from people to keep them safe.  She flies under the radar and does her best to remain unseen until people start to see her - popular Jack Fisher who has way more sex than I really believe any high school boy has, and Peekay, the preacher's kid who is both rebellious and not.

I just couldn't connect with McGinnis's characters like I did Zentner's.  Alex was crazy.  She was a sociopath.  Like, seriously troubled of the dangerous kind and yet she was never really held accountable for her actions.  Thankfully she wasn't one dimensional or the story would have gone down hill quickly.  You could see her change and grow throughout the book, but she was still crazypants.

As for Jack Fisher and his girl on the side - I am fully aware that my high school experience was of the sheltered kind, but I just couldn't put myself in this boy's shoes.  His family life seemed genuine and realistic, but as soon as he left the house it was like he was living in this imaginary world - almost a stereotype of the popular boy.

So that's where I left it.  This fell short of realistic.  It wasn't poorly written, McGinnis is talented, but it felt like something was sacrificed for the sake of a shocking plot.  But then again, I was coming off a book high.  I could have just been seeing it through The Serpent King colored glasses.

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