Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Title: Faking Normal
Author: Courtney C. Stevens
Genre: YA, contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: HarperCollins / February 25, 2014
How Did I Get It? Gift from Miranda
Format? Hardback

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.

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When Miranda’s gift showed up on my doorstep and I saw this book in it, I dropped what I was reading at the time because I just knew I needed to read this one right away. And I wasn’t disappointed! This was a heart-felt, hopeful, and powerful novel that will stick with me for a while. I was shocked to find that this is Stevens’ first novel – I can’t wait to see what else she’ll come up with!

I had actually been spoiled for this book before I read it, so the plot wasn’t anything that made my jaw drop. Actually, it gave me an interesting perspective, knowing who had assaulted Alexi and seeing how they still interact with each other. I was also bristling at said person every time he was on the page.

Plus, knowing what had happened to Alexi before she was able to voice it made me feel like I was on the sidelines cheering her on. Like a “you know what happened, come on you can say it, there you go girl I am so proud of you!” sort of thing. So while I wasn’t shocked by what happened, I really enjoyed seeing how it happened and the slow unraveling of the whole story as Alexi came to terms with the summer’s events and the consequences of it all.

Knowing the plot gave me more time to focus on the characters, and I was so happy I could do that because I loved both Alexi and Bodee. As I said before, Alexi’s journey from self harm, shock, and internalization to healing and confidence was one of my favorite aspects of the novel, and Stevens did such a great job portraying that, even down to the specific words that Alexi used at each stage of the book. Bodee has a special place in my heart as well. From the very first time he was mentioned, I just wanted to scoop him up and take him away from everything. But he has such a bright heart and he’s just good. Despite how much he was hurting, he still saw through Alexi’s facade and tore it all down, allowing her to heal him as much as he healed her. And I loved the Kool-Aid hair thing; it was such a unique characteristic, and it fit in with his personality so well. The friendship the two formed was so touching; they challenged each other, and refused to let the other fall into the brokenness of their situations. It wasn’t a case of “this person will save me,” but more of a “I need this person to support me as I stand on my own two feet again.” The distinction is small, but it’s huge in the end, and Stevens nailed it with their relationship.

If I had one complaint, it would actually be regarding Bodee’s story. I know this is Alexi’s journey, and her healing from her assault, but Bodee had a lot of baggage he needed to work through. Some of it was shown at the end – I’m not saying he was completely forgotten! But I’d have loved to see more of his struggle; he was focused on helping Alexi, but I know he was hurting so much in the first half of the book. Now that I’m typing this out, I realize it’s entirely a personal issue, and not on Stevens part. Because his story was told, but I want more since he’s such a special character to me. I petition for a companion novel from Bodee’s POV!

Another note: the very end of the book has a letter of sorts from Stevens, listing common misconceptions and thoughts someone might have after they were assaulted. I thought this was incredibly important, and really would like to give her a round of applause because it just drove everything from the novel right into real life and made it so applicable to anyone who may have experienced that.

I highly recommend this novel for sure! I wish I hadn’t waited so long to read it, so thank you to Miranda for handling my failures and setting everything right in the world. Also, I’ve rated it 4 stars, but honestly I may bump it to 4.5 or even 5 stars. It’s stayed with me long after I closed the final page, so while I wasn’t blown away at the end at first, my love for it has grown in the few days since I finished it and now I really don’t know why it’s not on my favorites shelf.

My Final Rating:

Four stars

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16 thoughts on “Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

  1. It wasn’t a case of “this person will save me,” but more of a “I need this person to support me as I stand on my own two feet again.” YES! That’s the kind of thing I want. I hate it when it’s all about the romance and no actual self-actualization or something.

    Also, there is a Bodee POV. It’s a novella I believe.

    I’ll definitely want to read both in the future.

  2. I’m so glad that you liked this! It’s been on my own TBR list for quite some time…I was kind of jealous that I had to mail that beautiful copy to you instead of keeping it and reading it for myself 😉 But now having read your review, I’m even more excited about reading this! It sounds really good and I love the kind of relationship that you describe as being in this book: “The friendship the two formed was so touching; they challenged each other, and refused to let the other fall into the brokenness of their situations.”

  3. I saw this on NetGalley a couple of months before its release but I didn’t request it because the cover didn’t attract me. *sheepish* And ugh, darn people who spoil books. I swear they’re everywhere these days! But I guess if it helped put the book in a whole new light for you, that’s good.

    Wow, the characters sound like they go through a lot, and I like that you were able to see the character development so clearly. I always think that it takes a lot of skill to be able to develop a character “simply” enough for the readers to be able to notice it too, instead of BAM — last couple of pages and the character is suddenly all fixed-up and good with nothing before that. And aw, the way you described your feelings toward Bodee makes me want to do the same, too! Goshdarn, you won’t believe how happy I am that the romance (I’m guessing it’s a romance?) wasn’t that “I need you to survive” kind of thing. HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS, FTW.

    The short letter from the author at the end reminds me of another book I read, also about rape: Going Under by S. Walden. It’s a LOT darker and more… um, graphic, I think, than this one (the sex scenes are in quite explicit detail). I didn’t like the characters much, but the author tackled sexual assault in a different way and wrote some pretty insightful comments after that. You might want to check it out, if you don’t mind the graphic details. >.<

    Great review, though! I might give this a try if I have the time and money, lol.

    • How does the cover not attract you??? It’s gorgeous tans and browns with GREEN EYES. That was the whole reason I looked at it for more than 2 seconds in the first place 😛

      I think that’s the best part of the book – even at the end they’re not fixed. There’s still the unspoken fallout from all of the events that they’ll have to deal with, but they’re more hopeful. And yes it’s a romance, but a;fjks;jfkdfds it’s so sweet and perfect and healthy.

      Never heard of that book, but graphic sex scenes aren’t really my thing. And this book didn’t even have flashbacks to the rape – it was just referred to, so that was nice that it didn’t get so dark.

      Yesss read it! At least sometime, maybe when it’s in paperback and cheaper 😀

      • I don’t know! D: I think it looked a bit too generic for me… and the colors too similar. I’m really picky when it comes to covers! >.<

        Yeah, it kind of shocked me how detailed everything was. Definitely not a book I'd read again, but thought I'd throw it out there just in case! 🙂

  4. I WAS BASICALLY NODDING MY HEAD THROUGHOUT YOUR ENTIRE REVIEW, KAYLA! (And I think there is a short story featuring Bodee.)

    This book was so good and I was hungover for DAYS after reading it. I loved both Bodee and Alexi and how they sort of stood as each other’s walls and kept each other up… Excuse me while I feel all the feels.

    • WOOO! I bought it 😀 *whatbookban*

      I feel the same way! I just keep thinking about it and now I really do think I’ll have it a 5 star at least. It just STAYS with me all the time.

      *joins you in the feels fest*

  5. YES! Great review Kayla, I basically agree with everything you said lol. I loved this one a lot too, and I was very surprised by it. I just LOVED Bodee BUT he does have a POV – it’s called The Blue Haired Boy I believe (it’s an Impulse novella if I remember correctly!).

  6. This author’s local to me and I’ve actually seen her at a writing conference before, and since I probably will again this year, I feel like I need to check out her book even though it’s not my usual reading fare. Glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Pingback: Weekly Recap 32 (June 22) – The New Bookcase Edition | The Thousand Lives

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