The Female of the Species

the-female-of-the-species-mindy-mcginnisFirst Lines: This is how I kill someone.  I learn his habits, I know his schedule.  It is not difficult.  His life consists of quick stops to the dollar store for the bare minimum of things required to keep this ragged cycle going, his hat pulled down over his eyes so as not to be recognized.

I received this ARC a little while ago (official release date is September 20, 2016).  I wanted to catch up on my ARCs because hey, it’s kind of fun to read books before everyone else (sorry about your luck).  This one grabbed my attention, so I thought I’d start with it.

Three years ago, Alex’s sister Anna was murdered and the killer set free.  That’s when Alex learned what it takes to kill someone.  But because she knows she’s dangerous, Alex keeps herself separate from other people.  She lives in the shadows, forgotten.  Until Jack Fisher, the boy everyone wants to be.  Jock, valedictorian, and shoe-in for Prom King.  Jack hasn’t gotten over his guilt from the night Anna was found in the woods, but he finds himself drawn to Alex’s strange demeanor.  So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid.  When Alex and Peekay start working together at the local animal shelter, Peekay sees something in Alex that she’s sure no one else does.  But this newfound friendship between Jack, Alex, and Peekay is threatened after a night of partying in their tiny town.  Can their friendship survive the darkness in their town and in Alex?

Y’all, I love a good dark story (hello, Poe), but this is almost unsettlingly dark.  Big game dark.  We’re talking drugs, sex, murder, and violence of other kinds.  I wasn’t expecting that.  Anyone who’s pretty sensitive to this kind of stuff should probably steer clear.  I’m totally not one for censorship, but this is probably inappropriate for younger readers.  Like, if you thought this would be awesome for your little sister/cousin/friend whatever, maaaybe you want to read it first yourself.  That’s all I’m saying.

These characters are different, but in a good way.  I can’t help but compare Alex to Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory because she’s usually pretty well-meaning but she completely misses social cues.  She’s lived in this bubble for three years and now that she’s emerged, she’s lost. But it’s also kind of adorable.  Jack is a small town hero who feels trapped by the county lines.  I thought that approach felt realistic and it helped to explain how Jack could be jerkish and admirable at the same time.  It was Peekay, though, who really won me over.  This preacher’s kid hides her heart of gold under a fine finish of sass and sarcasm.  It was glorious.

I was really surprised by a lot of chances the story took, and the direction it went in.  The darkness was for sure a surprise, but even some of the other plot events just shocked me.  I definitely didn’t see the ending coming.

I had a slight issue with the narration.  It rotates between Jack, Alex, and Peekay, which I understood.  These three are from vastly different social groups and they all had personalities that made them notice different things even when they were all in the same place at the same time.  So I understood that. But the chapters are super short, so the narration is constantly changing.  For a casual reader who maybe only reads a few chapters at a time, I can see where this book would get confusing.

Overall, I found it to be a scary–and a scary depressing–look at small town teenage life while maintaining a great cast of characters.

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