The Female of the Species

352p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062320896.
RedReviewStarGr 9 Up—McGinnis presents readers with a darkly captivating look at the lives of small-town teens seeking escape through drinking, drugs, and sex. Alex Craft prefers to be untouchable, thinking of herself as a caged and dangerous wolf who should not be allowed around others for the sake of their own safety. Following the grisly rape and murder of her beloved older sister, however, her cage is unlocked and she is set loose on the students, befriending a few but scaring many others in her quest for justice. Is Alex a danger to their ideals and benefits, or a savior from the pervasive evil leering through unlocked doors at night? This is an astoundingly dark but beautifully written tragedy, brimming with sexual assault, violent murders, and accounts of animal abuse that will be difficult for most individuals, but also tempered with glimpses of genuine human emotion and extremely touching displays of kindness that cross social barriers and species. Sexual abuse and assault are treated with sensitivity here but also portrayed with the necessary weight and power, and the dangerous repercussions of poor self-esteem, limiting social expectations, and secret-keeping are discussed openly and frankly.
VERDICT Highly recommended for collections serving teenagers, this book will likely be especially well received by those who enjoyed any of Gillian Flynn's novels.

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