About Kelly Lynn Thomas

I read. I write. Sometimes I sew.

#FridayReads: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

cover for The Female of the SpeciesI don’t read a ton of YA, but for whatever reason I found myself craving a good young adult novel at the beginning of the year. I’d seen all the buzz for The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis, so I checked it out from my local library. Boy, what a ride.

This book tackles the difficult subjects of sexual violence and justice. Alex, the central character, seeks justice for her sister, who was kidnapped, tortured, raped and ultimately murdered and dismembered. Lacking enough evidence for a conviction, Anna’s killer goes free. So Alex digs in deep to the dark parts of herself and takes matters into her own hands.

Alex is prepared to spend the rest of her life in isolation, hiding from society. But then she makes friends, and then she falls in love. Alex begins to think she can be normal, maybe, when a group of junkies tries to rape her friend. Soon it becomes clear that she cannot keep the violence within her silent, not with sexual predators targeting the people she cares about.

The Female of the Species is a sort of tragic superhero novel, one where the hero treads the line between serving justice and taking revenge, one where there can’t be any happy endings.

The ending is certainly not happy, but it is satisfying. McGinnis doesn’t treat her characters or subject matter like a black and white canvas where right and wrong are clearly delineated. Her characters, and not just Alex, cross lines. They transgress. They do stupid teenage stuff and have to pay the consequences. But what McGinnis does make clear, again and again, is that no matter how stupid or out of line someone is, they do not deserve to be raped. They do not deserve to be assaulted.

Alex’s greatest strength is that she understands this simple fact. She sticks up for her friends, but she also sticks up for the girl trying to steal her boyfriend. In a way, Alex sacrifices her own humanity so that the other girls in her hometown don’t have to live in a world haunted by violation and fear.

The Female of the Species isn’t an easy book to read, in a lot of ways, but it’s an important one. You won’t regret picking it up.

 

A rough start

A few days after ringing in the new year, I came down with a cold. It started as a mild sinus infection, but has gotten worse and migrated down to my chest. On top of that, my German shepherd is having hip problems and has to be on rest for two weeks, which is driving her insane because she can’t burn off her energy. That, in turn, is driving everyone else insane, including poor Lexi, who just wants to be left alone.

A German shepherd resting her paw on a Welsh corgi's butt.

And then… our pipes froze. There doesn’t appear to be any damage, but it took us all of Saturday morning to get them defrosted. Imagine me, coughing, waving a hair dryer over my pipes, kicking all sorts of dust and grime into the air, making me cough even more.

What fun!

So despite my plan to start revising my novel on January 1, I’ve yet to touch the thing. Now I feel like it’s taunting me from its resting place on my shelf (it exists as a handwritten scrawl in a 5-subject notebook).

I started this novel—which I affectionately call my “dead people novel”—in 2011. Seven years ago! Today, it certainly feels like it will take another seven years to finish. To be fair, I haven’t been working on that novel continuously for seven years. I wrote half a draft, realized it was all wrong, started over. Wrote another 20,000 words, then decided I wanted to do a collection of short fiction for my MFA thesis. That book took me three or four years to put together, and then I got back into my dead people novel, with a few more breaks for other projects.

Still, it feels like I will never ever ever finish this novel. Especially when I’m busy hacking up a lung and trying desperately to stay on top of all my other, non-novel-writing responsibilities.

That’s the constant struggle of the working writer. Anything and everything will eat into your writing time if you let it. And sometimes, you HAVE to let it. I don’t care if some dude with an MFA from Iowa or Columbia says you should write every day and never let anything get in the way, ever, because that guy probably doesn’t have a boatload of student loan payments and frozen pipes to deal with. So screw him.

I will revise my novel this year. And I will get started soon, hopefully later this week. But first, I’m going to give myself some space to rest, catch up on a few things, and feel better, so that when I come to the page I have actual coherent thoughts to put down.

Here’s to hoping your 2018 is off to a smoother beginning than mine!

Let me tell you exactly how much I hate christmas

Warning: This is a rant about how much I hate christmas (hint: a whole fucking lot). If you really like christmas, or if you don’t like profanity, you should maybe avert your eyes.

Grumpy Cat meme that says, "Dashing through the no."

I hate christmas. Why? Well, because people insist on pushing their religion on me and saying things like, “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “don’t take Jesus out of christmas by abbreviating it to xmas” and “YOU MEAN MERRY CHRISTMAS” when I say “Happy Holidays” because there is more than one holiday in December, and then think that somehow, despite this holiday being pervasive as fuck from September to January, there is an actual WAR on christmas*.

I’m sorry, no. Actually, I’m not sorry. Just no.

Jesus is NOT the reason for the season. Axial tilt is the reason for the season, and when you get right down to it, christmas is just Yule with a nativity scene thrown in. Everything from the date, to the tree, to the Yule log, to the lights is all pagan in origin. The only reason Christians celebrate Jesus’s birth on December 25 is because the Roman Catholic Church couldn’t totally wipe out pagan beliefs, so they just slapped Christian practices on the old pagan traditions. You still want to celebrate baby Jesus on December 25th? COOL. I support your excitement over baby Jesus.

But I don’t celebrate baby Jesus. I’m Wiccan. I celebrate Yule, which focuses on the returning of the light after the darkest day of the year. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and set intentions for the coming year. So again, Jesus is not the reason for my season or my celebration. Please stop trying to annoyingly convert me with cliche rhymes. It will not work.

Let’s also take a moment to talk about capitalism. People loooove to say how we should remember the true meaning of christmas is Jesus’s birth (remember, he was not born in December) and all that, while also gleefully flinging money at every store they go into to shower people they don’t even like with expensive but ultimately meaningless gifts. It’s just a bit too hypocritical for my tastes. You can say, “That’s not me! I only buy reasonably priced gifts for people I like!” and that’s cool, but you’re in the minority. And even Christians perpetuate the whole weird and kind of creepy Santa Claus thing, which probably didn’t start as capitalist but has been completely co-opted by corporations (example: pictures with Santa in every mall ever). Like, I’m sorry, but I do not want an old fat white man breaking into my house and leaving shit from goddess knows where under my Star Wars Yule tree.

Keep Calm and Bah Humbug

Then there’s the “music.” The “music” consisting of the same five songs, covered by every pop artist ever, recycled over and over and blasted at top volume for months. It’s fucking torture, and at least one clinical psychologist backs me up on this. Now you know why everyone’s so cranky in December. We all have to listen to that fucking awful “music” all the goddamned time. And half of it is explicitly religious. Which again, is probably great if you follow that particular religion, but if you don’t, it can all feel like a big FUCK YOU.

Okay. Now for the so-called “war on christmas.” No one (except me, maybe) is waging a fucking war on fucking christmas. You are a self-centered, self-righteous asshole if you think that. Because GUESS WHAT? There are other holidays in December! There’s Hannukah! And Kwanzaa! and Yule! And Saturnalia! And New Year’s Day is like, the day right after December! Also, see my point above about explicitly religious christmas music playing in every goddamned store from November to January. If explicitly religious christmas music is that pervasive, there is no war on christmas, only a war on my sanity. Just because people maybe want you to respect their holiday doesn’t mean they want to stop you from celebrating yours! I, christmas hater extraordinaire, don’t even want to stop you from celebrating your holiday! I just want you to leave me out of it. So please, do us all a favor and get the fuck over yourself. Enjoy christmas and stop trying to make everyone else enjoy it if they don’t want to!

And finally… “xmas.” Guess what the “x” stands for. Guess! It’s the first letter of Christ’s name in the Greek alphabet! And there’s a long tradition of abbreviating Christ’s name. So actually, you aren’t taking Christ out of christmas if you abbreviate, you’re just being lazy. Also, so what if someone wants to abbreviate? Does it affect you in any way? No? Didn’t think so. It’s fine if you prefer not to abbreviate, and it’s fine if you want to. Stop trying to make everyone do things your way. I mean, really. Who died and made you king of the universe?

So what, you say, you love christmas! That’s great! I’m glad there is something in this cold, cruel world that brings you joy. But just remember–not everyone is a Christian. Not everyone celebrates your holiday. So maybe try not being a dick about it?

*I have made christmas lowercase on purpose, because I hate it.