Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
Genres: Young Adult
Publication date: February 25, 2014
Format: eARC, 321 pages
How I got it: Edelweiss
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Alexi Littrell hasn't told anyone what happened to her over the summer. Ashamed and embarrassed, she hides in her closet and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does.
When Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in "the Kool-Aid Kid," who has secrets of his own. As they lean on each other for support, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her find the courage to finally face the truth.
A searing, poignant book, Faking Normal is the extraordinary debut novel from an exciting new author-Courtney C. Stevens.
It’s difficult to put my thoughts about this book into words, which is why I’ve been holding off on doing a review. This book was beautifully written and equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful. It took two broken characters, Alexi and Bodee, and threw them together in a most expected way. Their bond allowed them both to heal and move past their demons. It was honest and real and I had a visceral reaction to many of the scenes. It deals with tough issues and will not be a book everyone will enjoy or appreciate. But, I did appreciate it and I respect Courtney for tackling the issues she did in this book.
Alexi was raped by someone and didn’t tell anyone. The guy who did it is still in her life. We don’t know who it was for quite awhile in the book. I guessed correctly, but I went back and forth a couple times wondering if I had figured it out. Regardless, it didn’t matter who did it. What mattered was how it impacted her life after. She didn’t withdraw from everything. She had friends. She was social. But, she spent many nights hiding in her closet and self-mutilating herself in order to cope. She feels betrayed, but also guilty. Her pain was laid right out for the reader to see.
Bodee, the Kool-Aid Kid, moves into her house after his father murders his mom. He is different. Awkward, but sweet. He is trying to cope as best he can with what life has handed him and is also trying to deal with his guilt for not saving his mother. He was a complicated kid who, even though he had enough to deal with on his own, came into Alexi’s life at just the right time. Bodee helped her come to terms with what happened to her and encouraged her to do the thing she didn’t want to do – confront her rapist. Their friendship was sweet and perfect for each of them at the time. The relationship that built slowly out of it was beautiful.
This book is pretty heavy on the emotions, as you can imagine. I was entirely wrapped up in Alexi’s and Bodee’s stories from the beginning. Both of them had been through so much at such a young age, yet neither of them acted like a victim. The outside world would have had no idea about Alexi. Bodee was in pain, but it was more internal. Their friendship, and ultimately budding relationship, built naturally over time. It never felt forced. They shared a deep connection with each other.
It’s not easy to write a book that deals with rape. Courtney did it in a way that not only gave an honest look at what a victim goes through emotionally in the aftermath, but also at others’ perceptions of rape. It was frustrating to me at times how other characters behaved, but it was realistic. I thought it was all handled very well, once Alexi finally decided to tell someone.
This isn’t a light and fluffy book. If you have a hard time reading about heavy issues or dealing with lots of emotions, this isn’t the book for you. But, if you can appreciate a story that focuses on how a character (or two, in this case) navigates the stages of grief and pain after something bad happens, and ends on a beautiful, hopeful note, you should definitely give this one a try. I think you’ll find these characters and this story will stick with you for a long time. I know it will stick with me.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.