Friday, October 28, 2016

The Female of the Species

Vengeance in the name of justice denied sets the gears in motion in the gripping YA thriller, The Female of the Species, by Mindy McGinnis. “This is how I kill someone;" as far as character introductions go, it's a doozy; and in those chilling words and one act of unspeakable violence, Alex Craft wields a darkness within previously kept at bay, but one which once unleashed will no longer be denied.

From the publisher: “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. While her own crime goes unpunished, 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. As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.”

The Female of the Species was a thrill to read; a true page-turner with well-developed characters and a compelling plot that moved its protagonists at a relentless pace towards the tale's inexorable conclusion. The story was told through Alex, Jack and Peekay's alternating points of view, offering readers a more insightful perspective into Alex, the catalyst driving this dark tragic tale. If guided merely by Alex's judgment of herself, readers would assume that there was no redeeming value to this lost child; but in her interactions with Jack and Peekay, we see a wounded cynicism which belies her age, and an undeniable light and goodness in direct juxtaposition to the evil of her actions.

Though the author has woven the important subject of the rape culture found in schools into the tale, I found more thought-provoking the novel's theme of vigilante justice and whether the end justifies the means. Alex kills a rapist and murderer, thereby preventing a predator from finding new prey and victims. Is a murderer a murderer, and a victim a victim no matter the circumstance? Do both crimes have a moral equivalency? I've always felt in these instances that two wrongs don’t make a right; that justice should be left to our criminal justice system or to a higher power, with my sentiment extending equally to capital punishment. After all, it makes no sense that the State is killing someone for killing someone. I'll honestly confess though that I don't know how I'd feel if the injured party was a loved one; if the unbearable grief of their loss and seething anger at the suffering inflicted upon them would alter my moral standing. God willing I never have to find out.

The Female of the Species was a memorable novel that chillingly and poignantly reminds us of the truth of Victor Hugo's astute words, “Every blade has two edges; he who wounds with one, wounds himself with the other” for an eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.