January Book Club Recap: The Female of the Species
By Mónica Gonzalez
A new year has landed upon us, and with it, a wide new range of opportunities to chat with some of the most prominent authors the industry has to offer. In case you missed it, The Bookmark recently hosted their first book club for 2017, starting with Mindy McGinnis’ most recent novel, The Female of the Species. This intense read follows the story of Alex Craft, a somewhat troubled teenager who’s had a persistent battle with her own instincts, after a sex offender abused and murdered her sister.
Throughout the evening, McGinnis revealed details about her writing process, as well as her inspiration for the story. Regarding its origins, the author explained that she got the idea after watching a true crime documentary about a girl who was raped, killed and left to rot, in a town where everyone knew who did it but no one ratted him out. In the documentary, every personal detail of the killer was shared with the public; including his name, address, age and a picture of his house. “If someone was really pissed off, they’d go to the town and kill the guy… That’s when I realized I needed to turn off the TV,” McGinnis told in a humorous tone.
With eye catching details cover to cover, many of the readers who showed up to the event admitted on taking an interest on the book because of it’s jaw dropping first line. And a vast majority of the attendants finished the book in a sitting or two. Throughout the discussion, many people expressed their desire for a less tragic ending. Most of them agreed on an alternative where our leading lady got imprisoned instead. McGinnis responded that giving Alex a more traditional ending would’ve felt like a betrayal to the story and it’s characters.
“…I never know how my books are going to end, my book had a lot of violence, it was about a woman who’s sick of violence. If I gave her a happy or traditional ending rather than a real or violent one, it would’ve been unfair and unrealistic…”
– Mindy McGinnis on the reasons behind the ending
And speaking of characters, when asked about who was her favorite character to write, McGinnis stated that Branley was the easiest to write, even if her character wasn’t meant to have a deeper personality unlike what her printed work suggests. The second easiest was Peekay because her train of thought was much simpler than the rest, while Alex was the hardest and most complex. “Alex was the hardest to write because I was trying so hard not to write her out as a psychopath, because she’s not,” the author revealed. Jack presented a whole other challenge on his own given that he was the first male POV she has ever written.
This story comes along with many sensitive subjects, it is very clear that it’s a medium to send a message about aggression, harassment, rape and the part one plays, not just as a victim, but as a spectator in moments of abuse. Alex’s character is numb when it comes to any feelings other than a thirst for vengeance. She’s a character that chooses to take manners into her own hands and acts on instinct rather than logic. All this is reflected in one of the most powerful scenes of the story, where Alex tears a sex offender’s nose off because he intended to rape her best friend. While this was the author’s favorite scene in the book, for most people, on and off the pages the act came surprisingly natural. McGinnis confirmed that Alex was born a killer, and while her murdered sister was her anchor to reality, she would’ve eventually let her instincts loose, even with her sister still alive.
With “a great year of books ahead,” stated by book club host Melanie Barbosa, this year promises to be full of interesting reads and authors. Next month, Lauren Oliver will take the seat as we discuss the novel that inspired the most recent book-to-movie YA adaptation everyone’s talking about; Before I Fall. In the meantime, we encourage you to stop by The Bookmark and pick up your copy so you’re ready for their next event.
Save the date on your calendars, because on Wednesday, February 22nd, all roads lead to The Bookmark.