The Female of the Species

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
The Female of the Species Book Poster Image
Powerful, dark, violent story of teen girl set on vengeance.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The emotional aftermath of sexual assault (not rape) is explicitly and movingly described. A presentation at a school assembly focuses on the things that too often happen after drinking: sexual assaults and auto accidents.

Positive Messages
Positive Role Models & Representations

Peekay befriends Alex at a time when she's known by most of her classmates simply as "the murdered girl's sister." 


A man is set on fire and burned alive, another is bludgeoned to death, and another has his piercing violently ripped off, taking with it part of his nose and earlobe. Two characters are killed with shotguns. Jack works at a slaughterhouse killing cows, a practice that's graphically described. There are two attempted rapes, and characters are punched and hit in the genitals.


Characters in The Female of the Species talk constantly about sex (often in a way degrading to girls and women) and several have sex, descriptions of which are not overly graphic. One girl is referred to as "Friend of All Penises." References to oral sex.


Profanity is used often and casually: "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," "goddamn," "a--hole," "dick," "hell." References to "blow jobs," "tits," and "balls."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of beer drinking. There are two very drunken parties involving all the characters. Alex's mother is an alcoholic.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Female of the Species is a dark, violent, and tragic novel about Alex Croft, a teen girl who see herself as an agent of vengeance. Set in a small town three years after Alex's sister has been savagely murdered, the story is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of Alex; her boyfriend, Jack; and her best friend, Peekay. There are murders, sexual assaults, drunken parties, and swearing ("motherf----r," "f--k," "a--hole," "goddamn"). This powerfully written novel is best suited for teens mature enough to see beyond the brutality of the story to the painful emotional lives of the characters. Mindy McGinnis is the author of A Madness So Discreet, winner of the 2016 Edgar Award for Young Adult Fiction.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAshe1996 August 30, 2020
Adult Written byFrances N. November 15, 2017
Teen, 14 years old Written bymovieluver46 July 22, 2017

Great Book! Intense Topics

I LOVED this book! I thought the book was well written for having multiple narrators. This book covers hard topics such as rape, misogyny, mental health, and an... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byxJunex July 26, 2019

Sheds Light on Important Topics

This book addresses many important topics such as rape culture, sexual assault, revenge, and morality. Though intense, it is a beautifully written and hard to p... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES begins with these words from Alex Croft: "This is how I kill someone." The brutal murder of her older sister has left Alex's already dysfunctional family even more damaged, and by her senior year, Alex is a loner with an appetite for vengeance -- and not just against the man she believes killed her sister and still walks free. Unexpectedly, she finds herself with a compassionate new friend, Peekay (so named because she's a preacher's kid), and a smart, athletic, and popular boyfriend, Jack. Can they save Alex from the path she has set for herself?

Is it any good?

This powerful novel is the brutal and heartbreaking story of a teen girl so consumed by the need for vengeance that she can find no other way to react to the injustice that surrounds her. It's filled with violent acts and flawed and damaged characters who may be too intense for many readers. For mature readers who can move beyond the storyline, The Female of the Species offers an opportunity to discuss serious issues, from rape culture and sexual assault to the morality (or immorality) of revenge.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role of vengeance in The Female of the Species. Is it ever right for an individual to become a vigilante? What would you do if someone you loved was murdered and the killer was never brought to justice?

  • If a girl or boy in your school acted out as violently as Alex, would people look the other way, or would help be available for her?

  • How realistic did you find the parent's reaction to their teens' drunken partying?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrillers and stories about the need for consent

Themes & Topics

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