review: the female of the species

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Date started: February 3
Date finished: February 12
Book 12/52 in 2017.

I didn't really know what I was getting into when I checked out "The Female of the Species," so I had no idea what kind of wacky plot was waiting for me when I cracked this one open. I'd been reading "Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari but I really needed a fiction break. If I'd known more about the plot, I probably would've hesitated to turn to this one. This book was not a break, exactly, because it is brutal, dark and bleak in so many places. 

But I would recommend it to so many people – with a warning that it does contain very real depictions of sexual assault and violence against women.


1. Peekay and Alex's friendship. This is a really sudden friendship that pops up, but I bought into it and believed that it was real because both girls were reaching out. Both girls needed someone, and they found someone, and it was a real friendship. There were moments where the friendship felt cliche – especially how Alex interacted with Peekay's other friends and how they welcomed her into their group so reluctantly – but it was outshone by Alex's genuine concern for Peekay's wellbeing and Peekay working so hard to pull Alex out into the world. 

2. The characters in general are complex, deep and beautifully developed. These are real, screwed-up, sometimes awful people. To me, the women – Alex, Peekay, Branley – feel far more like real people than the men in this novel – Jack and Park, for example, fall back hard on stereotypes of typical high school boys – and I am here for it. The story is about them anyway, even if Jack is one of the leading characters as well.

3. Every glimpse inside Alex's mind is perfectly written. Alex knows there is something wrong with her, and she is always waiting for it to emerge and make itself known to others. Her mind is an amazing web of violence, revenge and concern for others, and she is an increasingly complex character, shaped by the trauma she's experienced, at such a young age. I hate that she gets pulled into what feels like a very youthful, high school love affair with Jack – it just doesn't fit her, while her friendship with Peekay, another lost soul, does. But I loved every minute spent exploring Alex's world.


1. I am not a fan of Jack. I didn't groan and roll my eyes every time he spoke like I did with Rider in "The Problem with Forever" but lately, I have been incredibly unimpressed with the male love interests being served up in young adult books. Jack's infatuation with Alex doesn't feel real, ever, and I have a hard time believing that he looks at her one time and then can't stop thinking about her. Everything there felt incredibly rushed.

2. I lacked resolution on plot lines that took pages to flesh out. For example, Officer Nolan? Was that entire chapter only in place so that teenage boys could say truly horrible things about Branley? There was a lot of time spent on his talk to the students, so I expected him to be more influential throughout. I'm happy to say he wasn't, but I didn't need to hear so much from him. And the animal shelter nonsense? When something like that brings two characters together like it did Alex and Peekay, I expect more from it throughout the book – not for it to be dropped off the minute it's no longer a convenient plot device.

3. DO PEOPLE ACTUALLY CALL PREACHERS' KIDS PK? Why in the WORLD would that be a legitimate nickname for someone, and WHY WHY WHY would Peekay let everyone get away with it for her whole life? I really, genuinely hated it. Claire is such a nice name. 

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