Monday, February 24, 2014

Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

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I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. StevensFaking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
Published by HarperTeen on February 25th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: HarperCollins
Buy on 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.

Rape books are numerous, at least I’ve read my fair share. They come in all shapes and sizes, giving us tragic stories of broken lives and emotionally crippled victims. Faking Normal may be one of the bunch, but it’s one that stands out in its importance in showing one of the worst faces of rape: the one that goes wrongfully blamed, the one with circumstances that make the victim think it’s excusable. He was hurt, he said. Lonely, he said. Since she didn’t straight up say no, does it make it okay? Did Alexi “let it happen”, making it her fault? Even though she obviously was not saying yes? For months, now, Alexi has been punishing herself, justifying the abuse that has been haunting her ever since. Haunting her to the point of self-harm and sleepless nights filed with compulsive behavior. Not only is this story incredibly well written and poignant, but it sheds some light on one of the most misunderstood and controversial of crimes.

Unsurprisingly when we meet Alexi she’s a mess. She’s psychologically traumatized, feeling ashamed and dirty for having let that happen to her. I found this saddening and incredibly frustrating as this is an all-too-common scenario. It made me truly feel for Alexi, wishing she would stop, but also understanding her state of mind. The characterization is excellent, which is so important in these kinds of novels. Every character is crafted with a strong personality, allowing them distinct voices. Alexi, even with a fractured interior, is peppered with your normal teenage romantic fantasies and snort-worthy commentaries. Bodee is undeniably top book boyfriend material. He’s equally broken but so kind, so generous, so real. I fell in love with his Kool-Aid hair and protective nature. I also welcomed the largely present girlfriend characters that add friendship to the many positive elements this book holds – like family and music, the latter playing an especially important role in Alexi’s ability to find strength.

The plot itself, along with the emotional baggage, involves unraveling the details of the secret Alexi is keeping locked tight. I did suspect who her abuser was fairly early on, seeing right through the tactics used to try and sway us into another direction. But guessing it wasn’t a disappointment, exactly, as this is not the kind of book written for epic twists – that’s not what this is about. On the happier side, we have another mystery regarding the identity of Captain Lyrics who’s been conversing with Alexi through lyrics on a school desk, often perfectly matching her mood. This person, through these lyrics, becomes a kind of psychological sanctuary for Alexi. Another happy note is the romance which makes its presence known throughout the book, but not overwhelmingly so. It’s a very sweet romance that grows between two unlikely people who give each other the strength and courage they need.

A story of abuse and recovery; Faking Normal is a gripping and emotionally stirring read about a victim who’s wrongfully blaming herself. It is not, however, an emotional abyss of a read. It’s actually very well-balanced. Most importantly, it’s stories like this that help in changing the often misconstrued way of thinking that rape is ever justifiable.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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36 Responses to “Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens”

  1. Siiri

    This story is just so.. Uh, intriguing in the worst kind of way. I’m intrigued about the plot, intrigued about the characters and how they will go on with their lives and such, but at the same time I feel guilty for being intrigued, because this topic should not be intriguing. Everyone just loves this emotional story and I cannot wait to explore this *sets the tissues ready* I already feel for the girl and I want her to fight back and start realizing her value. Bodee!!!! Everyone raves about this dude. Yay. Oh, so the identity is a mystery of sorts? Okay. We’ll see how I’ll be able to identify the abuser. I’m so happy you enjoyed this:)

  2. Alice

    Ahhh I’ve heard that this one is an intense read! Definitely sounds like one I’ll have to be mentally prepared for when I chose to read it. Rape can be such a delicate topic to write about and it does sound like it’s done really well in this one.

    Really great review Giselle! I’ll look into reading this one sometime soon. 🙂

  3. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    Beautiful review, Giselle.
    This was such a poignant read and I loved these characters so much. I agree with you that the characterizations was fabulous and the author is really talented. I’m glad you enjoyed this so much, Giselle.

  4. Aimee

    I just love the synopsis of this novel. A lot of my Goodreads friends have been praising this one and I just cannot wait to get my hands on this. I’m glad that this one stands out from other rape books and that things in the novel have been balanced out well. Lovely review, Giselle! *finally adds book to wishlist*

  5. Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed

    I’ve tried to start this book a few times but stories like this really do a number on my emotions. I remember being so emotional after reading Hopeless. I sometimes find these hard to relate to but sometimes I’m just in the mood for a soul crushing book. This is the one I’m picking when I do get in that mood 🙂

  6. Tina

    I have read reviews on this book numerous times and yours is definitely the best. I’ve wanted to read it but now I SERIOUSLY want to read it because of the way you explained how she deals with her rape. Feeling guilty about it? I’m interested. Definitely different from usual YA books!

  7. Rashika

    I loved this book as well! I have to say though, I only briefly guessed the identity of the rapist and then decided that there was no way I was right. I kind of figured that she was messing with us but, when I found out I still wasn’t very happy. I was a little heartbroken but a little annoyed because the identity, to me, seemed to come out of nowhere (there weren’t enough hints along the way you know? .-.)
    I think you say everything perfectly about Alexi. Admittedly I was slightly frustrated with her. I think the author did a wonderful job with her and how she felt but sometimes I really just wanted her to stop. I wanted her to stop giving him an excuse, I wanted her to acknowledge what had happened.
    I loved seeing her overcome the obstacles and finally get the somewhat happy ending she desperately deserved. (the moment with her sister was so beautiful).
    Bodee is definitely top book boyfriend material. It was insta-love for me. He is such a rare love interest in terms of YA and I was SO happy when the author introduced a character like him.

    Wonderful review, Giselle! 🙂

  8. Andie

    Sounds like an intense and emotional read. I almost picked this one up yesterday at the library but I had too many books in my hands already. I’ll have to see if they have it next time.

  9. Henrietta

    I like the sound of Bodee! I’m usually hesitant to read something gritty but after reading your review, I’m going to pick this one up. Thanks for sharing, Giselle!

  10. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    I feel like everyday I’m commenting on a different review for Faking Normal, and so far 99% of them have been really positive. I definitely want to read this one soon, especially given the characterization of both Alexi and Bodee. He sounds like such a perfect love interest and he must complement Alexi’s broken character equally as well. I love the idea of a book that deals with the aftermath and psychological effect that rape has on a person, because rape unfortunately is becoming more and more prevalent and it’s such a devastating thing. And those issues always fascinate me on a morbid way lol. Fantastic review, Giselle! <33

  11. Christy

    Damn, I honestly don’t know if I can read this. I know I’ll get super pissed off, but know it’s probably a great story. Maybe I’ll give it a try anyway.

  12. Sassy @ My Never Ending Pile

    I’ve heard so many great things about this super emotional sounding read and I can’t wait to see how it is for myself. It’s sad when situations like this happen, as no one should blame their selves for that sort of abuse.

  13. Millie Dixon

    You know, I’m not usually into books like these, but you’ve convinced me to give this book a try. It really does sound like something so raw and real. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Fantastic review!

  14. Jess@Fairday's Blog

    This sounds like a powerful book, but it does help to know that it is also balanced. I am glad to hear that the writing is well done and my heart goes out to the main character. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Faye @ The Social Potato

    Awww, your review made me teary-eyed, Giselle. It’s so amazing how not only did this book touched and moved so many lives, it also gave a voice to silent victims of rape in a chilling and haunting way. I hope more people read this one and witness for themselves the hardships victims go through. It’s never an easy road, but perhaps with more understanding and patience from us, it would be more bearable </3

    Loved your review, Giselle!

  16. Melliane

    I read another great review about this one and I confess at the end it makes me really curious. I really want to discover Alexi and the story sounds intense, I want to discover it!

  17. Preethi

    Wow this book sounds great, a lot like Love Letters to The Dead. I can’t wait to meet Bodee!!<3 Also, I just wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation of how well your reviews are written Giselle:) They're the perfect length, use great word choice, and provide all the necessary details. I guess you could say I'm now a huge fan:D

  18. Jennifer Bielman

    Rape books scare me because some really mess with my head but some are so well done you can’t help but read them. This one seems like an amazing book with awesome characters and I will for sure be reading it.

  19. Amy @ The Reading Realm

    I agree there are a lot of books out there that address this same topic, some better than others. When the author takes a new and different approach to the story or can really make you think, this is when it can stand out from all the others. I’d like to check this one out to see how it differs from some of the one’s that I’ve personally read. It sounds like a deep and beautifully written story.

  20. Joy @ Thoughts By J

    This novel sounds like something you need to be in the mood to read. It sounds really interesting, but I get really emotional really easily so I’m not sure how well I can handle reading it. Wonderful review, will keep an eye out but not sure when I’ll get around to it.

  21. Kayla

    I love your review for this book. I haven’t actually read the book but I really want to now that I’ve read your thoughts on it. Based on what you said, I think it’s the kind of book that every young girl should read since I am a firm believer that education is the key to prevention and avoidance.

    Love your review! I can’t say it enough times, hehe! I’ll be looking out for Faking Normal in bookstores this year. 🙂

  22. JennRenee

    I have been back and forth on this novel for quite a while. IT sounds like it can be a winner, an emotional read with some feel good and some horrible stuff but these kind of books can go bad real fast. Glad to see your final thoughts are good. I may just need to buckle down and read it.

  23. Wendy Darling

    Man. Everyone is raving about this one, but as always that makes me nervous in case I dislike it. But reading your 4 stars and closing paragraph (thank you for that, because obviously I can’t read your full review just yet) makes me very hopeful. I will check back in with your GR review when I’ve had a chance to read/review myself!

  24. Amy @ Book Loving Mom

    I loved this book!! I loved the complexity of the characters, and what they were both dealing with. It was such a different take on a lot of the rape books that are out there. I went to the book signing this weekend and it was so great to get more insight onto the book and how she went about it. I can’t wait to read The Blue Haired Boy on Tuesday to get Bodee’s story.

  25. Nitzan Schwarz

    Here is another book I never considered cause of the cover, and now has to add to my TBR cause of one of your reviews!
    This sounds really good! I like that it’s not an emotional abyss, that it’s well balanced and has a great romance and swoon worthy guy. Definitely makes me want to read it!

    Great review! 🙂