The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

“But boys will be boys, our favourite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.” 

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis is a young-adult contemporary bordering on the mystery/thriller genre. It is told in three perspectives – Alex Craft, a girl remembered solely for the murder of her sister, Jack Fisher, star athlete, valedictorian and the person every guy wants to be and every girls wants to be with and finally Peekay, nicknamed for being the Preacher’s Kid who is struggling to come to terms with heartbreak over her ex. Together, they tell the story of their senior year and how their lives come together and how it ultimately affects everyone.

I loved everything about this story. I read it in one day and I haven’t been hooked to a book that much in a long time. The plot, the writing, the characters – everything was just addictive. It does not fall into your typical YA coming-of-age story. Yes, it tells the story of three characters in their final year of high school and yes, there is drinking and sex and relationships and rivalry but the one thing Mindy McGinnis does is include horror. There are mentions of animal abuse, sexual assault and murder. It also deals with rape culture, slut-shaming and gender discrimination. Despite it being about teenagers, the author does not shy away from the violence and acts of justice humans are capable of.
Alex Craft is our morally grey character who isn’t afraid to punch somebody in the balls for touching her without permission, who attacks a man for drugging her friend and even kills her sister’s murderer. Since a child she has embraced her violent nature and yet she meets Peekay volunteering at an animal shelter and ultimately, is just a girl that cares too much. She can’t stand to live in a world where violent acts against women go unpunished. Jack is your typical valedictorian/star-athlete/popular guy who embodies boys will be boys and yet falls deeply and madly in love with Alex who will destroy anyone associated with that stereotype. This allows him to see typical male behaviour through new eyes. Peekay is the rebellious Preacher’s Kid who isn’t afraid to put the other girls down and feels like she needs to help people in the world. She misses her ex, has very supportive parents and is drawn to Alex and the way she sees the world. I love how complex she was and how much her character developed within the course of the story – she starts off hating Branley, the girl her ex left her for, even going as far as slut-shaming her and yet at the end, she is the one who helps and supports Branley when she needs support. Speaking of, Branley was such a refreshing character. She’s your typical Queen Bee, beautiful, heavily made-up popular girl who gets all the guys, including Jack but she is so multi-layered. She is just a young girl that wants to be loved and accepted, not just for how she looks. During as assembly about rape culture, some guys even shout that it is her who is most likely to be raped. There were times I wanted to scream at her for her actions but if anything, she’s the one character I was the most attached to emotionally.
Ultimately, this is a book about rape culture. When the justice system fails, can we step in? Can we take revenge into our own hands like Alex? One of the first conversations in this book explores the animal kingdom and how the female of the species are deadlier. Therefore, the story delves into animal vs human nature. How far can we go to protect those we love? Alex, who is capable of extreme violence in order to protect against Peekay who fantasises about violence and yet finds it doesn’t come naturally to her. The girls volunteer at an animal shelter and yet Jack works with his father in a slaughterhouse. This book is filled with parallels between the characters, acts of kindness vs acts of good.

The ending blew my bloody socks off and obviously I won’t go into details but let’s just say that I did not expect it. I started off really disliking and questioning what the author chose to do and if it had been any other book, it would have probably ruined it for me but for this book and the message it’s telling, it fits. Overall, I truly enjoyed this book and actually, I knew I would as soon as I read the synopsis. It is just my kind of story and it’s already much-loved in the Goodreads community. The author was very brave to write this novel and her hard work paid off. The writing flowed perfectly and although it was split between three perspectives, each character had their own unique voice. This was definitely one of my favourite reads in 2016 and I’m looking forward to see what else Mindy McGinnis releases in the future.


Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

(Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a digital copy of this book.)

“If there are infinite worlds, how do I find the one that is uniquely, specifically mine?”

My main thought after reading this book is that nothing is real. It creeped me out extremely but not because it’s a horror but because it gives off such a desolate feel, you feel as desperate as the main character, as scared as him, as alone as him. This book made me feel tiny, it made my head explode and I’m still recovering. Yes, it is based around science and therefore there are quite a few scientific monologues but they are short and to the point so even someone with a very average scientific mind, such as myself, found it very easy to follow. 
Dark Matter is a sci-fi novel following Jason Dessen, an ordinary college physics professor. He’s happily married to his wife, Daniela and they have a teenage son, Charlie. Everything is perfectly normal until one night he is kidnapped, drugged and wakes up strapped to a gurney with people smiling down at him – people who call him ‘friend.’ He has no idea where he is or who these people are but in this universe he is a famous scientist who has achieved the impossible. This book deals with the idea of multiple universes – that every choice we make makes a fork in the road, where another version of us exists that made that choice. Our universe is just one of many, we are just one of many. 
In terms of characters, Jason was a real breath of fresh air for me. It’s rare that I read a book with a male protagonist I actually enjoy. I felt his every emotion, I felt his despair – everything felt as real to me as it did to him. His love for his wife and son allows him to find them, even when it should be impossible: they are his driving force. He doesn’t want the world in which he’s a scientific genius, he wants the world where he’s happy with his family. My main problem, and the reason I didn’t give this book the full five stars, is Daniela. Not because I didn’t like her but because there wasn’t enough of her and at one point, I felt as though her character was mistreated to the point Jason makes her sound like a prize in a raffle. I wish she had more of a role other than just to exist in multiple universes for Jason.
The writing was very simple but as a whole, this novel read like a movie. Not surprising seeing as Blake Crouch is a screenwriter. If this was ever put on the big screen, everybody would leave the cinema with exploded brains. It would be amazing. The book was very fast-paced and although the chapters were relatively long, it is addictive enough to speed through. This is the one word I would sum up Dark Matter – addictive. Every time I attempted to put it down, I immediately picked it back up again. Just as you start to think you know what’s happening, you get hit around the face again.  
I have always semi believed in the idea of multiple or parallel universes and this book just made it all the more interesting. In this vast universe, how can we be the only ones? What happens when we make a life-changing choice? How much would our paths have changed? This book does not have a ‘satisfactory’ ending, it is left very open, especially when it comes to some characters. To some, they may want answers, but isn’t that the point of this book? There is no ending, this universe is infinite, nothing is ever tied up into a little bow. I think this is the type of book that couldn’t have ended any differently than it did.
Overall, I truly loved this book. It is like nothing I’ve ever read before and I’d recommend it to anyone, not just the scientifically minded. It will blow your mind, confuse you, excite you and hook you. It will make you question your entire existence so, you know, nothing big.