The Female of the Species
by Mindy McGinnis 

4.5 stars, actually.

Whoa. This book….it was not easy to read. As soon as you read the first page, you get that encroaching shivers and denial feeling one gets going to a horror movie. Only this isn’t horror– it’s a raw look at the damage done to young girls (and boys to some extent) in our USA modern culture.

I guess i should have figured out that a book that starts out with one of the main characters’ sister having been raped and murdered wouldn’t be a walk in the rose garden.

And do not read this book if you are triggered by attempted rapes or slut shaming. (or if you’re the parent of a high school kid with blinders on about sexual activity) We get alternating points of view here between Alex– aforementioned girl whose sister was murdered, Jake–potential love interest, high school jock and man-slut, and Peekay– preacher’s kids who had just been dumped by her long time boyfriend.

Peekay and Jake are  the first to really see Alex. Until now, she hasn’t participated in the life of the high school very much, never had a boyfriend, and barely had friends. Despite all of them growing up together in a small town, Alex has always set herself apart. She’s been hiding a secret anger, a temper that flares up and causes damage to those around her, and ever since her sister was brutally taken from her she’s hiding an even bigger secret.

But its her very willingness to do violence that makes Jake and Peekay notice her. She saves Peekay from attempted rape one night and then she is ushered into a the incestuous relationship dance of this group of friends (many who are ex boyfriends, etc).

There is a casual attitude towards violence in Alex’s POV, and a super casual attitude towards sex in Jake’s POV and both are disturbing. Jake is more or less caught in a supremely unhealthy relationship with another girl and Alex is more or less broken.

The book makes you hope for Alex’s redemption through her friends and by protecting her friends (and not falling into the slut shaming trap towards Jake’s ex) but then, and I’m going to warn you here, the book does not end up HEA. This is not a romance, this is a slice of adolescent illness pie.

But moving and emotional, nonetheless. Like Jake, I found myself fascinated with Alex. Half a star fell to the book’s seeming utter lack of adults in authority reacting to real physical harm and known underage drinking as slightly unrealistic, but really, who am I to say that it is unrealistic in small towns?