Title: Faking Normal
Author: Courtney C. Stevens
Acquired Via: Around the World ARC Tours
Release Date: February 25, 2014
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.
At school, nobody sees the scratches or her pain. The only person she connects with is the mysterious Captain Lyric, who writes song lyrics on her fourth-period desk for her to complete. With pencil marks and music, Alexi carves out a comfortable space for herself as she and the Captain finish each other's songs—words on a desk feel safer than words spoken aloud.
But when Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend who understands her better than anyone. He has secrets of his own and knows all about suffering in silence. 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 speak up.
With her powerful, moving debut novel, author Courtney C. Stevens emerges as an extraordinary new talent to watch.
I'm not one for contemporaries, and I've never read any "issues" books that I can recall, but something drew me to Faking Normal. (It was probably the gorgeous cover.) It deals with self-mutilation (not exactly "cutting" in this case), sexual assault, peer pressure, and a whole slew of other problems that teens face a lot more than anyone would like to realize. I've faced all of these issues in the book to some extent (personally and supporting friends), so I was very interested to see how Stevens tackled Alexi's story.
I want to start off by saying that I wished every teenager in the world who has had to "fake normal" had an Alexi Littrell or Bodee Lennox in their lives. I think they will show teenagers that it's okay to be a good supportive friend and keep a secret but also guide a person - sometimes sternly or forcefully - back on the path for healing. It's really not one or the other of them that does the saving, but this is more of Alexi's story of healing than Bodee's. (Though he has to face his own demons, too.)
One of the things I loved best about Faking Normal is that neither Alexi or Bodee allowed what happened to them to swallow them, which happens to a lot of people facing horrible situations (not just teens). They went on with their lives as well as they could, and hopefully by seeing this, teens will take a moment to think about what's beneath the surface of the people around them.
For the record, writing a review of this book without making it about my own personal experiences is hard. Just so you know.
As for the mysterious culprit who brought Alexi to this awful situation, I had it called from the very beginning. I'm not big on tension and suspense, so the way Stevens wrote the story to make you suspect every guy in the book was a little frustrating. That, however, is just a personal preference, and I'm sure many people will enjoy being pulled around and shocked by the big revelation.
While Faking Normal isn't from a genre I go out of my way to read, I'm glad that I read it because Stevens addressed the issues in this book in a way that will hopefully have victims seek help and speak up, as well as show friends of victims how important their support is. Faking Normal is well-written without being preachy, honest but not graphic, and I'm sure it's exactly what a teenager somewhere needs to read.
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To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book briefly for reviewing purposes through Around the World ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review. The book was likely provided to the tour by the publisher or author, which has in no way affected the outcome of my review. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own.