Please note, this review contains spoilers.
The Female of the Species
★★★★☆ (I really liked it.)
Let me start my review of The Female of the Species by saying two things: first, this is not my usual kind of book; second, I love crime dramas, but I’ve always wondered what happened to the communities left behind. What happens to Burlington, VT after a serial killer snipes poachers, and breaks into peoples homes? Certainly, that wouldn’t be the Burlington, VT that I grew up near; violence like that would fundamentally change a community, maybe forever. What happens to a community after it’s “wheels up” and the BAU goes home to D.C., leaving the locals to pick up the pieces?
The Female of the Species is the answer to that question.
“Alex Craft knows how to kill someone.”
That’s how the blurb starts: “Alex Craft knows how to kill someone.” Even the blurb is expertly crafted.
I didn’t like the ending. (Spoilers follow.)
By killing off Alex, McGinnis closes off the possibility of continuing to explore what this kind of violence does to someone, and whether it can be undone. Alex knows there’s something “wrong” with her – she’s killed one man, her sister’s murderer, at the start of the novel, and she kills another man during the story after he’s accused of molesting a friend’s sister, and she feels no remorse. It’s not, as she explained, that she doesn’t have feelings; it’s that she feels too strongly. She must protect others, and if she can’t protect them, then she’ll avenge them.
… but then what? Alex Craft has killed two men and disfigured a third. I really wanted her to go to college, not because I thought getting away from town would magically “cure” her, but because it left open the possibility of continuing to explore what I talked about in the first section of my review: then what? What would’ve happened to Alex next? Would she have ever been caught, or would she have turned herself in? Could she change?
Those answers are a closed door.
Then, after Alex’s death, the sudden – and dramatic – culture change at the school just felt too… easy. Like all it takes is one girl’s murder to start undoing rape culture, but why didn’t that happen after her sister’s (horrific) death? That just seemed a little too easy, after the gut-wrenching ride that was the rest of the book.