Author: Courtney C. Stevens
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Published: expected February 25 2014
Source: publishers via edelweiss
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.
"Today is better than yesterday."
Though not without a few (admittedly small) issues for me, Courtney C. Stevens's debut is certainly a strong one. Faking Normal isn't afraid to veer into the darker side of life and though Stevens tackles tough topics with her first novel, she does so with awareness, sensitivity, and care. It's a story that is lovely and awful in equal measures, but for different reasons. Defined by strong writing, likeable characters, and a compelling but emotional storyline, Faking Normal is more than worth a read, especially if you're a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak.
Alexi's story begins as a low-key one, a mundane one even, but that doesn't mean it's not without emotion or heartbreak. For the most part, Alexi appears like a typical teenage girl, but once the secret she hides unwraps slowly over the course chapters, you realize her story is one of quiet horror and deep pain. Alexi's story is one that will be horribly familiar to readers, but Stevens does a good job of balancing the pain of her past with the possibilities and hopes in her future. Faking Normal is without a doubt a sad book, one full of triggers and pain, but it's not entirely bleak.
Aside from Alexi, Bodee is the other standout character. While I still wanted more personality from him, I've never before encountered a character with so much presence that said so little. His story is just as full of triggers and horror as Alexi's, but in a thoroughly different manner. Another thing I really liked about Faking Normal was that Stevens created such a strong friendship as a foundation for these two. They don't rush into dating, or try to save one another from their pasts, but instead become friends who support and help one another in the present.
There wasn't a lot to work with concerning the remaining characters. Alexi's parents were shallow enough to be a puddle, with nearly no presence or impact on the story at all. Their lack of awareness both enraged and saddened me because it also seemed so plausible. Alexi's sister Kayla was largely an infuriating, undeveloped antagonist until almost too late. I can't say that I liked Kayla, but she made me respect her by the end.
Faking Normal isn't an easy book. It will make it rain on your face. But it will also make you smile, as you discover Alexi and Bodee and how they help one another. It packs quite the punch for how short it is and how easily it is read, but Stevens debut is a fine one.