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-
“Me: a girl who was raped. Him: a boy whose dad killed his mom.
Us: a girl and boy who survive.”
– quoted from an uncorrected ARC
Faking Normal is the gut wrenching tale of two teens, who have been through some terrible things, coming together to help each other fight off their demons. It’s an intensely dark tale that still manages to have hope, and most importantly love, shine through it’s pages.
I have to say that after reading this one I am a little worried that I am becoming a one-trick pony. I have read some hotly anticipated titles lately in genres other than contemporary and they have all failed to have any sort of spark that would have made me love them intensely. Here I went again, back to my genre of choice, and I was enraptured, gutted and somehow still overjoyed at the same time. Faking Normal evoked a ton of emotion from me and has most definitely been my favourite read of 2014 so far.
We meet Alexia as she is at a funeral for a lady that her mother was in church group with. We quickly realize that the circumstances surrounding this ladies death are dark, she was murdered by her husband. Upon seeing the ladies son, Bodee, attempt to go up to the altar and say a few words and then freeze up and run out of the church, Lex goes after him and sits in comfortable silence with him. That scene sets the stage perfectly for this novel. Lex and Bodee become much closer once Bodee is invited by Lex’s parents to move into their home. The relationship that blossoms between these two is beautiful and sweet in the most incredible ways. At the beginning they don’t even know the full story of what has happened to one another, they just know that they need someone in their life to be there & be a shoulder for them to lean on.
As the stories of what Bodee and Lex had gone through is revealed many tears were dropped on my part. The things that Bodee went through growing up in his house are things that no child should ever have to go through and the guilt that he feels is something that no one should ever have to carry. We know early on that Lex was raped but the full details of the night are left a mystery for most of the book. I have to say that I pinpointed who had hurt her very early on in the novel, though we are presented with a very solid red herring. In the aftermath of these ordeals they are both struggling with, as the title puts it, faking normal. They are trying to go on with their lives and project that they are happy and just normal teenaged kids, but in reality they are retreating into themselves. Lex locks herself in her closet and finds solace in the constant counting of the metal bars on the grate of the heater in her room & picking at the skin on her neck and Bodee has his own routine that he doesn’t let anyone know about. The scenes where Lex was crying in her closet and inflicting pain upon herself were very difficult to read.
While I couldn’t necessarily relate to Lex and what she had gone through & how she handled it, I completely understood her. She was frustrating at times with her inability to say no, but I was able to let my frustrations go because Stevens does such a wonderful job of creating her as a character and making her motivations clear to the reader. The real gem for me was Bodee, I fell for him from the very beginning of the novel. He is quiet, sweet and comfortable in who he is and I always respect that. The way that he was there for Lex pulled at all of my heartstrings and had me swooning in even the darkest of moments in the novel.
I highly recommend Faking Normal to anyone and everyone. The characterizations are wonderfully done and the story will take you through a plethora of emotions from beginning to end.
Actual rating is 4.5 Espressos