Book Review, Fiction, Young Adult

Book Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

What do you do with a person who has terribly hurt another human being? You kill them of course, at least that’s what Alex Craft feels.

Alex Craft has always been different, but when her sister is taken, raped, and brutally murdered, Alex truly becomes the town’s social pariah. She is now the sister of the girl who was raped and murdered. She is Anna Craft’s sister. She is the odd one, but when senior year rolls around, Alex makes a couple of new friends and the town almost begins to see her in a new light.Almost. A best friend, a friend, a new future ahead – nothing could possibly go wrong.

Or could it?

The Female of the Species is told through revolving perspectives, and McGinnis integrates these viewpoints seamlessly as the different personalities reflect on the events in their own voice. As the novel progresses, it is evident through their respective chapters that each character is allowing events to change them and help them grow and learn from one another. As such, once the climax is reached, action and inaction go a long way in explaining each character’s reasoning and resolve at the story’s end. Though the character-types are not universal, it is still possible to find one’s own thoughts and beliefs exemplified within the characters of this novel.

Having grown up with a truly ignorant perspective of human and female rights, recent events have brought out the feminist in me, which is why I chose to read this book. It is refreshing to have right-minded young men and women represented in this novel, and one could only hope that real-life young adults share the same perspectives as McGinnis’ characters – though maybe not every exact action of the main character. In Female of the Species, seemingly typical teenage situations and moments are given a fresh, new twist in this novel. Just when you can sniff the 90s teen Rom-Com coming up, McGinnis snatches it away and serves you a plate of raw, brutal honesty that makes you face the reality behind current gender issues. Additionally, McGinnis gives a great reflection on the complexity of female relationships/friendships and their ability to band together or make amends despite their differences.

While some (minuscule/insignificant) aspects of The Female of the Species were not to my personal liking, I think McGinnis’ work is exemplary in bringing about a fresh, non-run-of-the-mill story for young adult readers to consume. For this reason, The Female of the Species is a book that I recommend to any reader, regardless of age or gender.

Book Review, Fiction, Young Adult

Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Words exist only in theory. And then one ordinary day you run into a word that exists only in theory. And you meet it face to face. And then that word becomes someone you know. That word becomes someone you hate. And you take that word with you wherever you go. And you can’t pretend it isn’t there.

Life doesn’t make very much sense when you’re a teenager. In fact, even adults find it difficult to understand why or how certain things happen. What is important is that you learn to live with it, and that you figure out how to move forward. This lesson is what Salvador is attempting to learn in Benjamin Alire Saenz‘s The Inexplicable Logic of My Life.

A “white boy” born into a Mexican family, Salvador has lived a happy, non-problematic life with family and friends. Despite being adopted, his identity lies with the family that raised him, and Salvador has never had a reason to think otherwise. He lives life day by day alongside his best friend Sam and new friend Fito – two kids whose lives are far from normal, at least when compared to Salvador’s. It isn’t until his senior year of high school that Salvador realizes how peculiar his happy life actually is and how much more different it will be by the time he graduates.

At 17, Salvador begins going through changes that make him question is life, his personality, and his belonging. The people and situations that have stabilized him throughout his life begin to change as well, and the safe, happy world he has always known is crumbling. Salvador realizes he will have to learn to cope, adapt, and grow from the unfamiliarity no matter how difficult, unfair, or sad it is. With his family and friends by his side, Salvador learns that life doesn’t always follow logic, but it makes sense in ways we cannot currently understand, and so long as we continue to move forward despite the obstacles, we come out stronger and wiser.

I first discovered Saenz when one of my graduate courses assigned Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe as required reading. Being from a region in South Texas (more south than San Antonio and Corpus), Saenz’s stories of El Paso resonated with me in ways I wouldn’t have expected. As someone from the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso seems like a world away but, in culture, not too much. I felt drawn to the ambiance, the dialogue, and the insight that Saenz gave his story and his characters. Saenz’s stories don’t need a linear/organized/clear plot because they are about life – and our lives aren’t always clear, are they? Events happen and sometimes they are big, sometimes they are small, sometimes they are boring, sometimes they are exciting, but they are all significant in shaping who we are and Saenz brings that reality to his books.

From the first page of Aristotle, to the last of Inexplicable, Saenz’s words have made me feel like home culturally, emotionally, and mentally. As I have heard mentioned before, reading Saenz’s work is like relaxing at home on a rainy day – it is comfortable, calm, it makes you feel understood, and it is ordinarily extraordinary.