“There are no words to this music, and that makes me sad. Every song deserves lyrics. Deserves a story to tell.”
Title: Faking Normal
Author: Courtney Stevens
Series: Faking Normal # 1
Publication: February 25th 2014 by HarperTeen
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
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.
Usually, upon finishing a book, I think about it for a little while, write my review and then wave goodbye and move onto the next book on my TBR shelf. But with this book? There is a distinctively dull and painful ache that has yet to fade. I don’t know how else to describe it. I hurt, my heart hurts, my head hurts – everything hurts and every single part of me wants more of it.
Faking Normal, as books of this topic usually are, is not easy to stomach. It is brutal, it is graphic, it will tear your heart into little tiny pieces and then dance over what remains while laughing maniacally. This book deals with a controversial, taboo subject that never ceases to make my blood boil: rape.
Every day on the news we see reports of victims, women, young girls, men, who have been raped or sexually assaulted. There are scandals like Bill Cosby and then there are issues that we don’t really hear about like the twelve year old girl in Oregon who was raped numerous times by her father. These are the minority, the ones who have cried out for help, gone to the police, and tried to do something about what was done to them. This is such a small percentage that it breaks my heart, I can hardly stand to think about the others out there that we don’t even know about – but I do, because this is the norm.
The majority of rape victims have never spoken out, like our protagonist Alexi. These individuals have lost their ability to cry out for help, to say no, to fight back. These are the victims who fear coming out, who fear speaking up because of how they think it will change the world around them. They, like Alexi, don’t want to be known as “that girl”. They are terrified of the way people will look at them, especially the ones who don’t believe them.
I guess I should end my sort of rant now, I couldn’t help myself.
Faking Normal was brutal in its portrayal of the silent and suffering victim. It was all so real, so genuine, that I felt as if I was in Alexi’s shoes – and it made me want to throw up. I can understand where she is coming from for the most part, that idea of worthlessness the dirtiness, the need for release yet no way to let the pain out – all of it was far too real for me and far too close to home to let me walk away from this book unscathed. Victims of sexual assault hurting themselves is not unheard of, it is actually one of the things that the hospital and the counselors look out for. Alexi is just another wonderfully portrayed example of this. She tears at the skin of the back of her neck to try and keep the pain inside when faced with something she can’t handle. She puts on this mask to hide herself from the world while simultaneously trying to lie to herself and pretend that everything is okay when it really isn’t.
When we are introduced to Alexi she is a complete wreck. As I have already said, she is so deeply traumatized that she has to hide herself in her closet and dig her nails into her neck just to keep a straight face in front of her attacker and her family. Her characterization was pure perfection, as was her story arc and the way she dealt with the things thrown at her throughout the course of the novel. Stevens has crafted every single character with such care and devotion that each of them has a distinct voice and an amazingly in-depth personality. Alexi, despite her fractured interior, is filled with the normal – but selective to her situation – romantic fantasies about a dream guy and hilarious commentary on what is going on around her. She is broken and shattered, but she is also trying to hold herself together as best as she possibly can. Bodee, oh how I loved Bodee. He is unquestionably book boyfriend material that can even stand on the same pedestal as James Cairstairs. He is equally broken, but for different reasons. He was so kind, so generous, but so imperfectly real that I found it impossible not to love him. Despite being a man of few words – he’d be more likely to tell you something through a certain look or a tiny gesture rather than saying it out loud, Bodee was an essential part of Alexi’s journey, and vice versa. He had a very strong presence throughout the novel and I really enjoyed it. He was so observant and caring; he could tell you a million things just with one silent moment.
Faking Normal is beautiful, heart wrenching, and a must read novel. It is not easy to read, though there are happy moments that make it bearable, but it will hit you straight in the gut. Buy this book, rent it from the library, steal it from a friend – do whatever you need to do to read this. You won’t regret it.