Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Faking Normal 
by Courtney C. Stevens
Read: March 3, 2014
Published: February 25th 2014 by Harper Teen
Source: ARC from the publisher. (THANK YOU HarperTeen)
Category: Contemporary YA (heavy issues)

Find: Goodreads | Amazon

An edgy, realistic, and utterly captivating novel from an exciting new voice in teen fiction.

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

I never planned on reading Faking NormalI've started to run away whenever I hear a book is going to be based on a traumatic "night something happened". Not only has the plot set up been done over and over, but it's a tough topic to face, and usually I like to avoid those. Plus, as I wrote in my post about the Trauma Victim Plot, in New Adult especially (this book is YA), these types of stories tend to follow the same patters and that makes them feel less authentic to me. However my carefully laid plans to avoid Faking Normal shattered after I met Courtney C. Stevens during the Story Crush author tour

Although the four authors at Harper's Story Crush were all eloquent and engaging, Courtney made the biggest impression on me. I could tell that her story was a personal one. Whether from past experiences or because of working with teens as a former youth minister, it was clear that she had something important she wanted to say in this book that was more than just a plot device. That made me want to listen. I'm glad I did. 

Just in case you don't know what happened to Alexi over the summer, I won't spoil it - though she does tell the reader very early in the story. But it involved someone she knows and once trusted. Now she measures her life and before and after it happened, and is struggling to appear normal on the outside while she's falling apart piece by piece. Alexi goes to school, hangs out with her friends Liz and Heather and even agrees to go on dates with guys that Heather sets her up with, but she's also hiding in her closet and scratching the back of her neck to control her pain. Then a boy named Bodee who colors his hair with Kool-Aid moves into her house after his father kills his mother, and Alexi finds someone who sees through her disguises and offers her his quite support like a lifeline. 

Alexi's journey through this book is not easy to read. Her path to healing and hope is difficult to take in places and filled with a tremendous amount of ache. So many times I wanted to yell at her to SPEAK UP. Or to just be annoyed at her, proclaiming that no one would stay silent in her situation. But how can I judge someone's own experience? And how many times have I not spoken up when I should? Plus the whole point of the story is that no matter what, it is not her fault. It's even more painful knowing that scenarios like this do happen. But the beauty of this story is that we are able to watch Alexi come to realize that she is never to blame, and that there is power in speaking up.  

Some elements that stood out to me in this book:

1) I love that Alexi and Bodee have created safe places for themselves, even some they realize they may not be the most healthy for them. Alexi hides in her closet and Bodee under the bed. They also have the tent and treehouse fort. Ultimately they find safety in each other as well. In her Story Crush discussionCourtney mentioned adding these places for her characters, and I love that she was so pointed in caring for her characters in the midst of their pain.  

2) This book captures the heart of a teen girl struggling with secrets. The way Alexi lies to appear normal, and even little scenes where she has internal panics because she thinks someone has found out what she's hiding read so true to me.  

3) The tremendous guilt that Alexi feels in this story about what happened to her is so hard to take. Realizing that it was not her fault is a big accomplishment of her. This book is realistic in the way it shows that Alexi has a long road ahead of her to healing. It doesn't fix anything overnight. But it is still hopeful. 

4) Alexi's relationship with her friends Liz and Heather and the conversations they have felt so authentic to me. But it is Alexi's growing bond with Bodee that stole my heart. Having someone who you can be completely honest with is important at every age, but especially for Alexi. 

5) This story is about Alexi's emotional journey, more than it is about enacting justice. {SPOILER} However, Alexi is not always the best judge of other people's perspectives. I'm not as convinced as she is that her perpetrator will not act again. I wish there were more official consequences for the person. {End Spoiler} 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 


  1. Yeah, I pretty much ran the other way when I read the blurb. And, while you're making this intriguing, I still don't think I'll ever read it. However, I know a bunch of students who would LOVE it...them, I'll recommend it to. Alexi and Bodee sound like fabulous characters.

  2. Like you, I found myself wishing there were more official, legal ramifications for her perpetrator by the end but, at the same time, I don't think that would have been possible seeing as there wasn't any evidence of his actions. Still, I was so impressed by the emotional impact this book carried and especially the fact that the safe place concept was one I hadn't come across before. I loved that Stevens had something important to say about this topic and dealt with it so tactfully too. Lovely review, Lauren - I'm so glad you gave this one a chance.

  3. Oh how I cannot wait to start this pretty. Yes, I have heard that people have felt the need to yell at her to speak up, but then again.. (I already assume what kind of assault and whatnot this is etc) um.. I assume it's hard to act in this kind of situation and there is no right or wrong on the victim's part. EHHHH I WANT TO MEET BODEE SO BAD *sobs* I don't want this all to be fixed in just a mere moment. I want there to be time, hope, healing--everything that takes time to progress. Brrr. This is so on my tbr-soon-soon-soon list:) Lovely review, my friend!

  4. You know what stands out to me most in the reviews I have read of this book is how each reader begins to personally identify with Alexi. And what I mean by that is they start asking important questions: What would I do if this happened to me? How would I react? Can I really judge her for acting the way that she did, having not gone through this myself? That's the beauty of these type of books--yes, they are tough to read, and yes, we too easily turn away form them, but I feel like we can learn so much about ourselves and others when we do read them and start these inner conversations. Super review, L :)

  5. I'm so glad to see that you ended up giving this book a go Lauren, I agree that Stevens did a truly wonderful job with this story. Although there was a lot of heartbreak at times for both Bodee and Alexi, I'm glad that they were able to find such an incredible friendship and anchor within each other, I appreciated how they were there for each other when needed to be, but also gave each other the space when they needed it. I also enjoyed watching the immense growth of both characters! Like I said in your Story crush post I can't wait to read more books by Stevens! Gorgeous review as always Lauren!

  6. I'm over the past trauma driven plot as well. Especially in NA where hot sex solves all. Since you feel the same but enjoyed this one I'll give it a shot.

  7. Lovely review, Lauren. I read and loved Just Listen by Sarah Dessen and What Happens Next and I'm almost positive they deal with the same issue. I got the sense this was a personal experience or an experience shared by a close friend of the author when I read an interview on another blog, and it's so sad that this sort of thing happens all the time to women/girls. The worst part is the guilt the victim feels when it's not there fault at all! I think I'd like to pick this up at some point.

  8. Amazing review. <3 Thank you for sharing :D Ah. I really loved this book. Mostly. Had a few small issues, but for the most part I really enjoyed it :) I agree with most of what you say, though. Sigh. But ohh. Yess. I loved the part about Bodee under the bed, hih. <3 Heartbreaking, but also awesome.

  9. Wonderful review! You just convinced me to buy this. It's already on its way. I don't mind books about trauma, so long as the trauma is actually important and dealt with and not a strange "chracterization" tact.

    Sarcasm & Lemons

  10. Great review! I wasn't sure I would read this either but I'm glad I decided to because it was so powerful. I also would have liked more official consequences for the perpetrator because I am also unconvinced he wouldn't act again.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...