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
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.
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: