Source: HarperTeen/Edelweiss – I received this in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Harper Teen
Edition: eARC, 336 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Purchase: Amazon/ Barnes & Noble / Book Depository*
*I receive a small monetary kickback from Amazon purchases
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.
Faking Normal is definitely going to be one of those books that sticks with me for a long time. It’s a hard one to stomach at times, but it was something that needs to be endured. This is a realistic contemporary novel where the teens have actual problems and don’t live perfect lives, and it’s one that could possibly even help someone find their own voice.
The story itself is one that you understand the premise of going in but you don’t find out everything until the last third of the book. You know Alexi has been hurt in some way but it takes time to see why the pain is so difficult for her handle and so ‘easy’ for her to hide. You do find out what happened before you find out the who and in some ways the who doesn’t really matter, because it’s more about the internal struggle that Alexi is having to deal with. It definitely tore me up to read this one and I had to take a lot of breaks because I couldn’t handle it in large doses. It’s an incredibly raw read and it probably won’t be for everyone. I know I had trouble understanding some of her reasons for being so quiet and passive about things, but I also know it’s because I’m far from passive…if I don’t like something I’ll be the first one to tell you. But I do know there are women and girls out there who are not like me and don’t find it so easy. I did understand her need to try and ‘control’ her situation, because I’ve been there. High school is one of the tougher times in a young person’s life and a lot of the time control just doesn’t factor in and you feel helpless. I understood why she felt the need to sit alone, count, or self harm because I’ve been there, and I think that’s one of the main reasons this resonated so deeply with me. I saw bits of myself in Alexi.
Alexi is quiet girl with a good head on her shoulders, but has trouble finding her voice. There were times when I wanted to jump into the book and say what she wanted to say but couldn’t, I wanted to lend her my voice. I want girls to be able to find their voices to say what they need to say. Then there is Bodee, who is an absolutely amazing person. He has his own struggles that he has trouble dealing with, and I loved the strength that he gave Alexi when she needed it. Their relationship was slow and natural as it moved over bumps, strengthened and sometimes faltered a bit. Then there are the characters I didn’t like through out the entire book: Heather and Kayla. Heather is one of Alexi’s best friends and she’s one of those girls who have trouble thinking about anything but relationships. While it’s completely understandable and normal, (I knew a few of those girls) it’s also highly annoying and I hated seeing her make decisions for Alexi and I hated that Alexi agreed. Kayla is just hard to handle over all, granted there are some redeemable qualities about her…but it seemed overshadowed by the fact that she throws tantrums like a child and is incredibly vindictive.
I thought the writing for Faking Normal was really solid and gave Alexi her own unique voice. Not to mention the fact that Stevens handled such a sensitive topic carefully and in a realistic way. I fully plan on purchasing my own physical copy of Faking Normal, and I definitely recommend this to any readers who want a book about social issues handled in a realistic and sometimes raw way.