“I am vengeance”
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.
Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.
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4 / 5
I’ve never read anything quite like The Female of the Species. It’s bold, it’s dark, it’s unafraid to explore themes like justice, vengeance, sexuality, power, and violence. Alex Craft killed a man and she doesn’t regret it. When the murderer and rapist of her older sister walked free, Alex took vengeance into her own hands but now she’s afraid that she’ll never quite fit into society, that it’s safer to remain in this small town with her alcoholic mother for the rest of her life.
“There are parts of yourself that you hate; parts that you know other people wouldn’t understand”
This book focuses on three teenagers, and we hear from each of their points of view:
Alex: Afraid of herself, entering her final year of school with no friends, no ambition, and no hope for the future
Peekay: The preacher’s daughter trying to divorce her father’s job from her identity, newly broken up from her boyfriend
Jack: An athlete aiming to go to college who only just seems to have noticed Alex for the first time and is infatuated
Whilst she doesn’t get her own “voice” or chapters, another very prominent character is:
Branley: Jack’s on-again-off-again fling and childhood friend
Alex and Peekay meet when they both volunteer at the local animal rescue centre, getting off to a great start when Peekay calls her Anna, the name of Alex’s murdered and avenged sister. Over the course of the book the two form a close friendship, particularly when Alex rips out a chunk of a guy’s nose to protect her. Alex and Jack meet it becomes clear that the two are in competition for the title of valedictorian: Jack needs it to get scholarships to go to college, but Alex doesn’t care, and that interests Jack. These three teenagers are drawn together by Alex and at the heart of Alex is violence: she’s not afraid to speak with her fists, but she is afraid of who, of what, she is becoming.
“It’s not the sheep that call to me but the other wolves. I want to run with them”
I was a bit concerned from the synopsis of the book that Alex would get this ~I’m special, I’m so dangerous, I’m not like other girls/people~ vibe. A couple of times this does crop up, particularly when Alex talks about herself like she’s a wolf, a wild animal, but mostly it is avoided and developed into something complex. Because Alex is definitely complex and an amazing character; she’s not always likeable, but she is always fascinating. Her story winds together several threads: her dead sister and the blood on her hands, her trying to live a normal teenage life, her first relationship, and her overwhelming sense of justice that draws her friends closer but puts her at odds with society.
My least favourite of the trio was Jack: he’s unlikeable at the start, purposefully by the author I think, for being a “bro”, for laughing at his mate’s sexual jokes, for his past and his behaviour, and then when he changes, when he grows out of this and you think he might be becoming a solid guy, he becomes utterly infatuated with Alex. I do, however, like the inclusion of his point of view; without it, The Female of the Species would be a rather dark and unforgiving book and Jack injects that “normal teenager” experience of wondering why your girlfriend won’t text you back and if you are going to get into college.
The Female of the Species has a couple of bumps – the peculiar and slightly unsatisfying ending, the slightly ~emo~ vibe at times – but it is a fascinating, difficult to read, page-turning book. I thoroughly recommend!