Courtney C. Stevens
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: February 25th 2014
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.
-A copy was provided by HarperCollins for review-
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.