You see it in all animals – the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
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.
Rating: 4.5 stars.
Let me just start out by stating: MAJOR trigger warnings for this book. Do not be fooled by the cutesy yellow cover. I repeat: Do not be fooled by the cutesy yellow cover.
I know, I know, it’s gorgeous
and I would totally marry it, but it is so not the fluffy YA romance that one usually associates with cutesy yellow titles. Maybe the author’s just trying to be ironic, advertising a dark thriller with a bright colorful cover. (I really really love it, though- GAHH it’s adorable).
I actually read this book quite a while ago, but I’m just getting to reviewing it now. Normally I’d just rate it and leave it at that, but this book was so memorable that I can’t help but add a little commentary. And news flash to myself: NEVER claim you’re going to review a book “later”, because later will never come. Nope.
Before I go off on yet another tangent, I will start my review, numbered very neatly in an attempt to make my all-over-the-place review seem at least a little bit cohesive.
1. It’s dark, and it’s violent. Some may even say it’s too violent.
McGinnis includes deeply shattering, incredibly insightful social commentary on issues that pertain to today’s society, and she refuses to sugercoat anything. I know a lot of the events that unfold are so horrific, almost cartoonish in their barbarity. The truth is, these kinds of atrocities are heartbreakingly common, even today. Rape, animal cruelty, stereotyping- just some of the many problems that McGinnis touches upon- are all things that we, as a society, need to address.
But boys will be boys, our favorite 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.
Everyone tells you to turn the other cheek; to fight cruelty with kindness. In this book, however, I loved that McGinnis explores justice’s more vicious side, and she’s not afraid to blur the lines between right and wrong. When the law fails Alex, she decides to take matters into her own hands, even if it means getting them dirty.
“Do no harm. Be nice. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
But what if I don’t want to catch the flies? What if I’d rather see them swatted?”
At first glance, Alex might seem like just another kind of twisted vigilante. But the thing is, although you know what she’s doing is politically, and arguably morally, WRONG- especially considering she feels absolutely no remorse for her oftentimes brutal actions- you can’t help empathizing with her. Her motivations are, in many ways, pure- she “feels too much”, as she states in the book.
2. So much girl power.
Alex Craft WILL NOT take your crap. She will punch you in the ballsack, tear out your earring (and, incidentally, take out your ear with it), burn down your house, and not even feel bad about it.
I am a wolf that my sister kept in a cage, until her hand was removed. I have been out, curious as I wake up from a lethargic solitude, self-enforced because I know I don’t belong here. It’s not safe for me to be out, but they rattled my cage.
I loved how the author developed her character arc throughout the novel. Alex doesn’t stay the same; she learns so much about herself as she struggles to let others in. Her budding friendship with Peekay was absolutely precious.
At the same time, it’s almost hard to believe that Alex is only a teenager in high school. I don’t know about you, but the ones I know sure don’t walk around reflecting upon the meaning of life and all that crap. Where I live, FIDGET SPINNERS HAVE TAKEN OVER THE WORLD.
I guess that’s what makes her stand out- her voice doesn’t sound like the voice of a “normal” teenager. Rather then telling someone “I’m going to kill you”, she says, and I quote, “Your existence should cease”. In many ways, Alex is wise beyond her years (and, in many other ways, absolutely clueless, especially in all things social).
3. Personally, the romance was just eh.
Jack Fisher was just eh. McGinnis purposefully develops Jack Fisher as the resident classic, all-American golden boy. (Why does it sound like I just described a burger? Disclaimer: He is not a burger.) I understand that he’s only human, and a teenage one at that- his brain is still developing, he’s not mature yet, blah blah blah. And as humans tend to do, he makes a bunch of stupid, insensitive mistakes.
Yes, Jack Fisher is still growing. All the characters, in fact, still have a lot of growing up to do, especially after everything they went through. Regardless, I didn’t particularly connect to him, nor to his romance with Alex. Which, by the way, sent off slight “insta-love! insta-love!” signals. He keeps on describing Alex as “special”, as “the one”, in comparison to all those other poor girls he went through like clothing.
(I vividly recall this one scene where Fisher’s mom talks about how she can always smell other girls’ different perfumes on him, and how he’s lucky that she mentioned “perfume” and not some other bodily fluid. Can I just say… yuck?)
In fact, I don’t even think their romance added anything to the plot. It was just… there. Where does it say that every single main character needs to be in some sort of relationship with some sort of cute guy? Even when it seems a bit unnecessary?
4. The author smashed negative stereotypes.
The perfect example of this is her development of Branley, who initially seems like an overused caricature of your typical rich, white, Barbie girl. In the end, though, readers discover that she’s so much more than that. Obviously, I do not condone cheating in any way, but Branley’s flaws made her such a complex character. They made her real. It was fascinating to track her growth throughout the book as the three narrators’ perspectives of her changed.
And you know what? I am so, so tired of slut-shaming in books. We shouldn’t judge others for the clothing they choose to wear, or for the way they decide to carry themselves. (I mean, unless they’re going outside naked or something, because that will surely be enough to scar some innocent passersby for life.) McGinnis emphasizes that it’s okay to be typically “feminine”, it’s okay to be “masculine”- the most important thing is to just be yourself.
Branley always looks put together in a way that tells me she spends hours in front of a mirror before going outside. And while I don’t understand that, I can respect it.
Thank you, dear author, for finally acknowledging that both girls and boys should be able to like whatever they like without fear of being judged.
5. The pacing was fast and kept me on my toes the entire time.
I gobbled this book up in practically a day. I wouldn’t exactly describe this as a book filled with life-altering plot twists, but I couldn’t hold my breath until I finished. And that ending. That ending. This book was without a doubt bittersweet, haunting, and most of all, real. I loved that it wasn’t all sprinkles and sunshine, because life, unfortunately, doesn’t always work like that.
Overall: A dark, fast-paced feminist read, and definitely on the heavier side. Everyone should pick this up.
Also posted on my Goodreads.