- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Publication date: 2/25/2014
- Source: eARC provided by the publisher for review
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.
Books like these are exactly why I love contemporary books so much. Raw, honest, realistic, emotional... those are just a few of the words I have to describe this book. I wanted to hug these characters, take away their hurt, help them try to cope with the issues they have faced. These are two very broken characters trying to find their way through life after traumatizing events. They help each other, but still fight to be brave enough to help themselves. I felt for them with every part of me. This is a heartbreaking and beautiful story. It doesn't portray rape in the violent way that most books focuses on it do. No matter what, rape is rape. It's not always hurtful on the outside, but it is always hurtful on the inside.
Alexi is living in shame after being raped. She feels like it's her fault because she didn't say no, didn't tell him to stop. She rationalizes that he said sorry, he was lonely and sad, he didn't do it to hurt her. To cope with her pain, she hurts herself. That is her release. She won't tell anyone because she is scared. She is so worried about what will happen if she does. She is not scared of him, but scared of the consequences telling will have. She knows it was rape, but can't help feel that she is somehow to blame for not having the courage to say no. She fears her life and family will fall apart, she knows that she will. She finds comfort in song lyrics written on her desk by a mystery person. She feels like they understand her somehow. Besides those lyrics, the only one who can help her cope is the quiet boy who lives with her now, Bodee. He doesn't push her, he is just there for her. She wants to help him with his suffering too. She wants him to have the courage to do what he needs to do, but she can't find her own. While trying to help him, she is able to finally help herself.
Bodee is one of those characters I love!! He isn't the popular boy. In fact, he's pretty much a nobody. That is until his father murders his mother and he goes to live with Alexi's family. Now he is the boy who's dad killed his mom, along with the oh so clever nickname "kool-aid boy" because he always has different colors in his hair. He has much more in his past then just losing his family. I loved seeing him expose the layers of his tragic life story. Even with all of his pain, he is still so set on helping Alexi. He knows that he needs to help himself too, but he isn't brave enough to face what is to come. He tries to find that strength with the help of Alexi, but doesn't know if he can. He comes out of his shell a little bit, but mostly only for Alexi. Only for her.
Of course there is a bit of romance in this, but it is so gradual and light that it fits the story perfectly. It wouldn't have been believable if it had just happened like they aren't both dealing with some majorly rough things. I loved that even though they had feelings for each other, they didn't want to jump into things. They wanted to be friends and get past the things that are keeping them broken. I enjoyed that they could just be together and not say a word, but that was enough. They understood each other without knowing the whole story of what has them suffering so much inside.
This story was so deep and real. It shows that rape, even when not violent, is just as much of a violation. Just as hurtful, just as psychologically damaging. Just because the word no isn't said, does not mean that it's not rape. Just because Alexi didn't fight it, does not mean that she wanted it. She just didn't know how to say no, but it was clear that she did not want to have sex. I think this is a great book on the subject. I think that at this age especially, (though really people at any age) people will sometimes feel under pressure, that they should do it, but don't really want to. Maybe all of their friends are doing it, or their boyfriend or girlfriend wants to and keeps pressuring them. They feel like it's not rape if it's a boyfriend/girlfriend, or a friend, but it is. After finishing this book, I found out this author was doing a signing in my area. I was lucky enough to meet her and tell her how much I loved this book. She is an author that is not only fantastic with her words, but a wonderful person. I can't wait to read more of her books!! This was an amazing debut that should not be missed.
*An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any compensation.