Thursday, February 06, 2014

Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Posted by

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 HarperCollins 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.

“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


4 Hot Espressos

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

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    A lot of other genres have been disappointing me too, Jenni and I also have been turning more towards YA contemporaries lately.
    This sounds like such a beautiful story. Just your description of the beginning makes me want to go read it already. The love story sounds sweet and my heart is already aching for the things these characters go through.
    Lovely review, Jenni.

  2. Mary @ BookSwarm

    This sounds seriously dark and heartwrenching! While it’s not my cup of tea, I know of a couple of students I’m recommending this to, since they love all the drama and heartbreak. Great review!

  3. Michelle

    The quote seems to sum up everything about the book. I wonder how the chemistry between the MC will develop given their dark experience. Great review! 🙂

  4. Tina

    I so know what you mean about always going back to this genre. I branch out and try other genres and they’re okay but a depressing YA book will always win my heart, no matter how old I get. This book sounds really really really good and I can’t wait to read it. This was a great review!!

  5. Christianna

    This one actually sounds much better then I was expecting, though I have to admit that this isn’t my genre of choice. Glad that it got you out of your reading slump though! That’s awesome and you made this one sound amazing and heart wrenching!

  6. Amanda @ Book Badger

    Oh wow, this book sounds so heartbreaking Jenni! The cover is what put me off, but I’m so ashamed; you really can find gems behind unimpressive covers! I’m glad you enjoyed this book, and I’ll have to keep a look out for it! 🙂

  7. Tina

    This sounds like a really great book and you have a great review! The quote you posted caught my attention right away, and I definitely plan on getting a copy to read at some point (:

  8. ShootingStarsMag

    Contemporary will always be my favorite, and I love books like these that touch on deep issues. I’m glad to hear it was a favorite for you. I hadn’t heard of this one, so thanks for putting it on my radar.

  9. Alexia @ Adventures in Reading

    You know how I felt about this one. I loved this book. It was beautifully written and the characters were so wonderfully real. I used a full box of kleenex for this book. I have it on my list of pre-orders because this was easily one of the best YA contemporaries that I’ve EVER read.

  10. kimbacaffeinate

    I have trouble connecting to straight up YA contemporaries although a few that pushed the limits managed to win me over. This sounds dark and complex, so I will add it to my list. Lovely review Jenni

  11. Henrietta

    4.5 hot espressos? Wow!! It’s wonderful to see that the story was able to evoke a lot of emotions from you, Jenni! From the bits that you’re sharing, the story sounds really heart-wrenching. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  12. Melliane

    wow it sounds like a really intense book… I confess it made me curious about Alex and her problems. I like to read something like that from time to time. And even if you couldn’t relate to the characters,Ithink it’s greatthat you could understand them because I think it’s the most difficult sometimes. Thanks for your review!

  13. Wendy Darling

    Oh man, I want to read your review so badly, but you know the drill…I’m starting this soon! I have heard such good things about this one though, and I peeked and saw evidence of tears in your review, so I know I need to get to it soon. 4 stars is really, really good. I’m very excited.

  14. Siiri

    Oh, yay! I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. I love discovering new things and genres, but contemporary will always remain my number one groove. Heh, I love books that make me feel the feels and share some tears. Happy or sad? What does it matter? IT’S EMOTION! So happy you loved it, I’ll definitely be checking it out since I’ve only seen good reviews so far and the story sounds so good. I hope your good luck continues with your next reads:)

  15. Bonnie

    This sounds like a total heartbreaker. Definitely sounds well worth the read though, I think I’m going to have to check this one out now. Lovely review!

  16. Alexa S.

    I’ll be honest; I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to read Faking Normal. Based on your review though, it sounds like a compelling read! I am pretty picky when it comes to contemporaries, but the details you’ve outlined here seem very interesting to me. I might have to reconsider!

  17. Christy

    Oh man … just reading this review makes my heart hurt for the characters. It’s definitely a book I’d have the tissues close by while reading. Wonderful review!

  18. Rebecca

    When I first “met” you it was over a mutual review of Th1rt33n R3asons Why,” which no matter which way you look at it is a gut wrenching and polarizing book. I recced you a few books about heavy subjects and you reviewed them and it made me happy to see someone who showed such empathy towards characters in books that people love to caricature a villian to point a finger at when they were humans too. Though I may not have commented, since then I’ve always looked forward to books you review on tough stuff. I don’t think that makes you a one trick pony. We all have things that hurt and bleed. A lot of people stray from that. You embrace it and the empathy you display without fail is astounding.

    You have a good heart and you have a great voice in your reviews. I hope you continue to review the tough stuff because we need more people that don’t marginalize the issue and turn everyone into a villian.

    Beautiful review. Hope I hear from you again Jenni.

    Rebecca @ Vicariously!

  19. Michelle

    Okay, I am absolutely glad that you loved this one, because it’s been on my TBR list for a long time!

    Great review as always!