YA Book Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

YA Book Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnisThe Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 20th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Goodreads
five-stars

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

The Female of the Species is such an important, honest and brutal book about all the darker things that DO happen to kids every day somewhere out there in the world. It isn’t an easy book to read and it will make you uncomfortable. Many will even say it should come with a trigger warning. Author Mindy McGinnis doesn’t sugarcoat anything in her story. There is foul language, drinking, drugs, sex, and violence (animal, people and sexual).

At its core, The Female of the Species is a book about rape and all the many ways rape culture manifests in our everyday lives. It is also a story about friendship, loss, rage, and love. There are so many “lessons” all teens (girls and boys) NEED to learn in this story. I would love to be able to hand out copies to everyone I meet because this book needs to be read.

At its core, The Female of the Species is a book about rape and all the many ways rape culture manifests in our everyday lives. It is also a story about friendship, loss, rage, and love. There are so many “lessons” all teens (girls and boys) NEED to learn in this story. I would love to be able to hand out copies to everyone I meet because this book needs to be read.

“You see it in all animals – the female of the species is more deadly than the male.”

fem

The Female of the Species is told through the first-person POVs of three characters:

Alex Craft- her older sister Anna was raped and murdered and whose killer walked because of the lack of evidence. This injustice causes Alex to give in to her darker impulses and seek her own form of justice. She also cuts herself off from social interactions.

Peekay (Claire)- She is the preacher’s kid, representing the “every girl” in us. She is also a representation of the many females that instead of rallying around one another actually do more harm than good, without even knowing it.

Jack- The jock/golden boy, handsome, smart, popular, with a long list of sexual conquests, but who is now interested in Alex. There is more to Jack though than all of these labels, he wants to be a better person.

Mindy McGinnis did a fantastic job with the development of these characters (as well as the minor characters too), and in how they connect to one another. The unlikely friendship built between Alex and Peekay only doubles when Alex saves Peekay from what could have been a really bad situation. Alex helps Peekay see how she without meaning to, contributes to the ideology that “boys will be boys”. In return, Peekay helps Alex come out of her shell and interact more with the other teens around her. For however brief a moment, she helps Alex almost feel normal.

I really like Alex. I know not everyone will feel the same way, but I do. She is a strong, complex, and definitely broken. However, I couldn’t help liking this anti-hero, this girl who calls herself “vengeance” and happens to be a killer (with criteria). We all have a part of us that might go a bit further, a bit darker if pushed to our limits (at least I believe we do). To me, even if Alex did turn out to be a complete monster , she still has redeeming qualities.

The use of animals in certain scenes by the author was a really great way to connect how much pain and violence humans are capable of doing to all living things, including themselves. For as much animal abuse shown in the book, you also get to see the love and care that Alex gives to these animals. You get to see a completely different side to Alex full of compassion and love.

The author has a valid reason for including what some might find to be offensive or troubling. This is all done to create a lasting impression, a way to connect with the reader and make the point stick. Questions will arise while reading The Female of Species and that is a good thing. Questions like: Why shame someone for doing exactly what you also want to do?

“You shouldn’t be that way about her,” Alex says. “I hear what people say and I bet half of it isn’t even true. And even if it is – fine. She’s no different from you and me; she wants to have sex. So let her…She likes boys, and she can get them. You were hurt by that, but it wasn’t Branley who hurt you. It was Adam.”

The Female of the Species questions why society normalizes the kind of behavior/talk where boys speak about girls as if they are non-human, or just things to be used.

“Tonight they used words they know, words that don’t bother people anymore. They said bitch. They told another girl they would put their dicks in her mouth. No one protested because this is our language now.”

It is in accepting these thoughtless remarks/language where girls turn against each other out of jealousy or anger, or where boys aren’t accountable for their actions or words that lead us to the present issue we have with rape-culture. This is one of the many reasons why The Female of the Species is such an important book.

On a lighter note, there are lots of good things that happen in this story. Watching the relationships of all the girls in the story change and blossom was one of the most beautiful parts of this story. I loved the romance between Alex and Jack and how their relationship actually helped each of them grow and become better individuals. So it’s not all about violence and swearing.

The writing is splendid and so beautifully done. The story becomes lyrical and poetic. Here is one of my favorite heartbreaking quotes (keep in mind this comes from an uncorrected proof copy…as do all the other quotes in this review:

“Sometimes I forget for one second and it hurts. It’s a different kind of pain than the constant, the weight that hangs from my heart. It swings from twine embedded so deeply that my aorta has grown around it.  Blood pulses past rope in the chambers of my heart, dragging away tiny fibers until my whole body is suffused and pain is all I am and ever can be. “

Seriously, how can one not swoon to a passage like that?

Yes, The Female of the Species will linger in my mind and my heart for a long time to come. I did not want to put this book down. From the first sentence, I knew I was hooked. What’s not to love about a book that reminds girls to have self-respect? Or to respect one another too? Or one that calls guys out on their BS while also reminding them to be respectful of girls? I highly recommend this story to all teens and adults alike. It is a MUST read. It will not disappoint.

~Thanks to Katherine Tegen Books and Edelweiss for providing me with the arc in exchange for an honest review~

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five-stars

YA Book Review: Frayed by Kara Terzis

YA Book Review: Frayed by Kara TerzisFrayed by Kara Terzis
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on June 7th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Dear Kesley,
My therapist tells me I should write you a letter. Like flushing all my thoughts and feelings out of my system and onto paper. I tell her it's a stupid idea.
But here I am, writing a letter to a dead girl. Where do I start? Where did our story begin? From the moment you were born...or died?
I'll start with the moment I found out the truth about you. Your lies and my pain. Because it always begins and ends with you. And that end began when Rafe Lawrence came back to town...

Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister's killer...although she'll wish she hadn't. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger.
And Kesley's murderer could be much closer than she thought...
A debut novel from Wattpad award-winner Kara Terzis, Frayed is a psychological whodunit that will keep you guessing!

Frayed is the story of Ava, who’s sister has recently been murdered. Ava is determined to find out who killed Kelsey and why. The story starts with Ava writing a letter to her dead sister, her therapist thinks that it will help Ava cope and come to terms with her sister’s death. However, the only thing Ava really wants to do is discover who killed her sister and why.

The author gives you an array of characters to choose for suspects from Ava’s boyfriend Jackson, Rafe (Kelsey’s best friend), Amanda and the KARMA gang, Lia (Ava’s best friend) and even Diana (Ava and Kelsey’s adoptive mom). You don’t get much information about Kelsey except that she was the “golden girl” of the town. No one can believe anyone would ever want to harm her. I enjoy psychological thrillers/murder mysteries and I love piecing together the clues to figure out who the killer is while I am reading. I have to warn you that pretty much everyone in this book is untrustworthy. I was guessing from the start (which dragged a bit for me), and before I was halfway through I had made my final decision as to who was Kelsey’s killer (and I was right). While I did like Ava, the rest of the characters weren’t too endearing to me. I especially hated Jackson, who was possessive and demanding of Ava. I was screaming internally at Ava to just break it off with him.

I should point out that this book wasn’t all kittens and rainbows either. It was pretty depressing and sad. I felt really sorry for all the hardships Ava was dealt in life. She not only lost her parents, but also the only sister she had. As Ava digs deeper and deeper to discover who did this to her sister, she also has to face the realization that Kelsey was keeping a whole other side of herself secret from her. As a reader, I wish I had gotten to read other POV from the other characters, it might have helped to give them a little more depth. I also wish to have seen a chapter or two set before Kelsey died, so I could feel some type of emotion about her and her death. Ava’s lack of confidence in herself drove me nuts too.

I love being surprised and I do love a good twist at the end of stories. The author definitely gave me one twisty end, though I had already guessed who the murderer was, I would have never guessed the reason for Kelsey’s murder or how things had gotten to that point. I liked that this book wasn’t stuffed with sexual conduct or graphic language and it wasn’t overly gory either (regarding the specifics of the murder). I think Frayed would be appropriate for ages 14 and up especially if the reader enjoys mysteries with a twist.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me the ARC of Frayed in return for an honest review.

three-half-stars

YA ARC BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

YA ARC BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Corners by Kara ThomasThe Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
Published by Delacorte on April 19th 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars

The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.
There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.
Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.
Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.
But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.
Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

WOW! The Darkest Corners was a fantastic mystery ride. Usually, I can figure out and put things together when I read most mystery novels, but the reveals of this book totally surprised me in the best way possible.

The Darkest Corners is well-plotted and perfectly paced. Kara Thomas does a great job building up to the climax of the book and establishing the background and relationships of the characters. Though it started off a bit slow, the story still “sucked” you in. The anticipation was like being on a rollercoaster – slowly climbing to the top, feeling every click of the chain pulling your cart higher and higher to the drop off point before you are set in free fall and come rushing back down and through all the loops and hills. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. There were plenty of times where I found myself holding me breath as the story unfolded. If I could have read it in one sitting I would have but unfortunately, there is a thing called life and responsibilities that kept me from just completely devouring this book in one swoop. There are many twists and turns, and the reveals in this book are INSANE and nothing like I was expecting.

I really liked that there was NO ROMANCE in this book, which is not very typical for most YA. There was a good amount of friendship in this book and that made me happy. Tessa and Callie’s friendship was my favorite of all the relationships in this book. I was glad that they were able to rekindle their friendship after years of drifting apart and having been through so much at such a younger age. Tessa was definitely my favorite character. Life hasn’t been easy for her, and she definitely had lots of struggles especially with her family. Tessa’s a fighter though and seemed like the kind of girl who would never take “no” for an answer, I respect that kind of drive and determination.

If you are looking for a thrilling mystery that will keep you guessing then I highly recommend you read this book. My mind was completely “blown” by the time the final reveal came and I am still processing what happened – it was that GOOD.

Thank you, Random House for providing me with this ARC copy of The Darkest Corner at ALAMW and I can’t wait to read the final finished copy, being released on April 19th, 2016.

karaAbout Kara Thomas

Kara is the author of THE DARKEST CORNERS, coming April 2016 from Random House/Delacorte. She is also the author of the Prep School Confidential series from St. Martin’s Griffin under the pen name Kara Taylor. Kara has written for Warner Brothers Television and currently writes full-time on Long Island, where she lives with her husband and rescue cat.

four-stars

Book Review: Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve TucholkeWink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Published by Dial Books on March 22nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Every story needs a hero.Every story needs a villain.Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.
What really happened?Someone knows.Someone is lying.

I wanted to read this book from the moment I laid eyes on the gorgeous cover (Look at it. It is Stunning!). I made my peace with the fact that I was going to have to wait until it came out for me to discover what this mysterious book was all about. Luckily I was able to attend ALAMW and while at the Penguin booth I made an inquiry about it and VOILA! I was handed a precious copy of the ARC . THANK YOU PENGUIN TEEN! 

:: cue happy jig and squeeing ::

I had to try hard to read this book slowly, but I was so curious about what the big mystery was. I wanted and NEEDED to know who was the hero, who was the villain and who had the big secret. The book is written in a multi-character point of view, and the chapters are all fairly small, so it was easy to get carried away with how quickly you begin to devour the book.

This book was definitely “different”, it was also weird, strange, and odd. This review is going to sound a bit vague at times, but I don’t want to give anything away. It was not like any other contemporary YA I have read. When I first I started reading this book, I thought it was going to be in the realm of “magical realism”, but it definitely is not, even though the story does have a certain kind of dreamy/eerie feel to it.

Let’s take a look at the three main characters:

Wink is a whimsical and eclectic red-headed girl. She loves fairy tales and pretty much lives in her own little world. I love how different and slightly strange Wink is, and I especially love her imagination and love of fairy tales (it might be because she reminds me a little of myself when I was much younger). Most of her classmates think that she and her family are a bunch of oddballs and often try to make fun of her. Wink ignores them and is basically immune to being bullied. She has five other siblings, all red-heads except for one, and a mother who is a fortune-teller. Their family life is anything but traditional, and they pretty much all do whatever they want and run amok on their farm.

Poppy is the rich, popular and beautiful blonde girl…you know…the one everyone loves to hate (usually without reason, but not in this case). She is spoiled, mean and manipulative. She loves to use people and when she doesn’t get her way everyone around her pays the price. Poppy was definitely not a likable character but I did feel sorry for how shallow her life seemed to be.

Midnight is a sweet yet very lonely boy. His mother and brother moved to France leaving him and his father behind. He’s trying to get away from Poppy’s web when his father moves them next door to Wink’s farm. Now he’s caught between both girls and unsure of what to do.

Right at the beginning, we find out that Poppy has been using Midnight for her own selfish reasons and that they are having a sexual relationship. Midnight is at first infatuated with Poppy, but she does not care about him at all. As Midnight is coming to terms with how toxic Poppy is, his father moves them next door to Wink and her family farm. From the moment he meets Wink he likes her, but it isn’t anything lustful. Midnight feels at ease with Wink, and that makes him happy. He wants to be done with Poppy, but you don’t break-up with Poppy she breaks-up with you. Once Midnight and Wink start hanging out together Poppy is furious even though she doesn’t really care about Midnight. Poppy can’t stand not being the center of attention or not being wanted. It’s about here that the story starts to take off but like I said it’s a strange tale and no amount of explaining it will really do it justice. This is not a love triangle by any means, and though Midnight and Wink instantly sort of gravitate to one another upon their first meeting it didn’t feel like “instant love”. The don’t act infatuated with one another and are not kissing each other after every other sentence.

I very much enjoyed the writing style April Tucholke uses in this book. It’s poetic and the imagery jumps off the page. It cast a spell over me, and I could have read this book completely uninterrupted until the very end if it weren’t for my very busy schedule. I loved that Wink lived in her fairy tale books and was so strange and quirky. Her family was so cute and reminded me a little of that famous red-headed family the Weasleys from a certain magical series.

I can see where this book probably won’t be for everyone, and why some people will just not like it. The weirdness and strangeness of the story might be off-putting to the kind of reader that like a more “concrete” story but for me, it was a divinely pleasant read from start to finish. If there is one thing I could change about the book, it would be how it ended. I wish it could have been a bit more “certain”. I was left wondering and slightly confused about what I had just read. Maybe that was the point of the ending, or maybe it was just so different from what I was hoping for that it clashed with the ending I had already created in my mind.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little different, a bit dark and a tad mysterious. It’s a unique story full of atmosphere and vivid in detail. The writing is beautiful, and you’ll get completely immersed into the world April Tucholke creates within these pages. Nothing is what is seems to be and everything has the potential for change. I can’t wait to read more of April Tucholke’s books.

Happy Reading! 

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four-half-stars

Book Review: Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

Book Review: Daughters Unto Devils by Amy LukavicsDaughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 29th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 231
Goodreads
four-stars

When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner’s family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.
When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn’t right on the prairie. She’s heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda can’t be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul.

My friends Nicole from Nicole’s Novel Reads and Elizabeth from BookYAbber have been raving about this book for a few weeks, and when they told me they were heading to Salem, MA to attend the “Halloween Tenn Scream” event hosted by Wicked Good Books and Harlequin TEEN featuring authors Kady Cross, Gena Showalter and Amy Lukavics, I decided to tag along. The event was fantastic (with a costume contest, author signings, and lots of treats) and it gave me the opportunity to hear Amy speak about her debut novel, as well as her writing process. It also gave me a chance to meet Amy Lukavics, pick up a copy of her book, and see what the fuss was all about.

Me, Nicole and Elizabeth "Harlequin Teen Scream" event
Me, Nicole and Elizabeth “Harlequin Teen Scream” event (Two Slytherins and a Ravenclaw in the Center)

Daughters Unto Devils event

The story centers around Amanda Verner, her religious family and their relocation move to the prairie lands before the winter arrives. We are told about the previous winter and how it pretty much drove Amanda mad with cabin fever. Not only were they stuck in the cabin for months with only each other for company, her mother was also very ill and eventually gave birth to her youngest sister Hannah, who would not stop crying. Amanda just could not take it anymore and she swears that at her breaking point she saw the devil outside the cabin. We learn all this information from the recollections and memories Amanda has as she goes through her daily routine. Amanda has also taken up with a young man named Henry, and has secretly been meeting him in the woods. They have committed lustful sins, which has lead to Amanda becoming pregnant and now she fears the wrath of her family, but also fears the changes happening within her. One day her father comes home and announces that they will be moving to the prairie lands before the harsh winter arrives. The family seem to feel some concern about Amanda suffering through another winter locked up in the cabin again (at least I felt like they were sort of tiptoeing a bit around her). The prairie supposedly gives them the opportunity to find larger housing and hopefully more comforts during the winter ahead. They make the move, but Amanda feels uneasy, she’s unsure about the prairie and what awaits her there and how she will will break the news of her condition to her family. Most of all she feels like something is wrong, something sinister is lurking, and she can’t get anyone to listen or believe her.

I usually don’t read books that are too scary or that could possibly cause nightmares (because I’m a scaredy cat), but every now and then I will pick up a story or book to read if it sounds interesting enough or comes well recommended. Being near Halloween and wanting something different to read, I decided to take up my friends recommendation/suggestion and started to read Daughters Unto Devils. The first half of the book was really slow, I was seriously begging for something to jump out at me (I normally would never ask for that), but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I realized that my issue with the story at this point was that I was looking at it with the perspective of a woman in 2015, and that if I stepped back and looked at in the perspective of a young woman in the 1800’s I would be pretty scared for my life and well being too. Premarital sex and pregnancies were a huge “no-no” back in those days. It was and still is a huge deal within most religions to this very day. No wonder Amanda was so concerned with what her overly religious family would do to her! She had every reason to be scared, and to think that her body’s natural yearnings and desires were brought on by the devil and the evil inside her (probably due to her family/church rules/religion bombarding her with their opinions that such feelings were impure and ungodly). Once I sort of reminded myself of this, it was easier to continue and be as frustrated with the pace of the story or with the “old fashioned-ness” of the dialogue and character personalities. Thankfully, the story did pick up and soon things were happening so quickly I actually wanted it to slow down a bit so I could catch my breath. The ending was definitely creep-tastic and scared me enough to make all the slowness of the beginning worth it. It was hard to sleep for a few nights after finishing this book and not think I would hear crying babies in the woods, eerie violin music and  tapping noises on windows and doors.

I really do wish that we would have been shown things, instead of being told them a little more. This goes for showing how religious Amanda’s family really were, or why Amanda all of a sudden decided to start sleeping with Henry the post boy, or the sisterly bond between Amanda and her sister Emily as well as a few other things. As much as the beginning lagged, the ending was very fast. Everything went from pretty dull, to mysterious, to OMG WHAT IS GOING ON? far too quickly without really explaining why the prairie filled with evil and where it came from.  Maybe one day we will know these answers, maybe they were meant to be left mysterious so that our imaginations could run wild coming up with answers. Maybe that’s what you are suppose to think about when you are awoken by a loud “SMACK” against your bedroom window in the middle of the night. Because seriously…how else are you going to get back to sleep after that?

I would definitely say give this book a try if you are looking for a creepy read, and are patient with how long the story takes to develop. The ending of this book will not disappoint and will probably make you want to sleep with a nightlight on. Amy Lukavics can definitely put together a disturbing story, and I do look forward to reading what she will come up with next.

**This review was originally posted on Reading In The Tardis**

four-stars