ARC Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Pub. Date: February 25th, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
336 pages

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

I’ve done my best to remain spoiler free – for that reason, there’s a bit of vagueness, which I usually try to avoid.

I expected Faking Normal to be a heavy, serious read, and I honestly wasn’t sure I was in the mental space to handle it. While the subject matter is very serious, at it’s core Faking Normal is an uplifting and inspiring story about what being a friend, and being supportive, really means. In a novel where grief and trauma dominates, I found Alexi and Bodee’s slow growth of trust in each other, and the subsequent slow reveal of the traumas they’ve faced, to be a really powerful thing. I had such a strong emotional reaction to this novel. The story will stay with me for a longtime.

Faking Normal has one of the most interesting and heartbreaking opening chapters I’ve ever read. While we have no idea the depth of trauma Alexi has face, we are instantly introduced to a big part of the devastation Bodee is facing.
Even though he initially is a man of very few words, I couldn’t help but adored Bodee from the beginning. He is the quintessential loner, who for reasons outside of his control, and definitely outside of his wishes, becomes the center of attention. With a dry humor, fierce loyalty and a haunting quality, Bodee makes for one heck of an intriguing character. My adoration for Bodee’s strength is one of two reasons this novel will stay with me. If we should all be lucky enough to have a Bodee in our lives, the world would be full of much happier people.

In the beginning I was not the biggest fan of Alexi or the way her story was kept a secret. I found myself impatiently waiting to know what happened to her, so that I could understand why she was reacting to situations the way she does. My early judgment of Alexi is the second reason Faking Normal will stay with me. Midway through the novel, before we fully know Alexi’s story, she tells Bodee that she doesn’t want to become synonymous with the trauma she experienced, in the same way Bodee will forever be associated with his trauma. At this point I realized how I allowed myself to be one of the people who didn’t know the details, yet made assumptions and judgments based on what they thought they knew. One of the people Alexi feared. I ultimately had nothing but respect for the extreme courage and strength of Alexi’s character. The true story of what happened to her is appalling, and shocking. Her character and her story, started as one I didn’t understand, but become one I will never forget.  

Faking Normal is a powerful contemporary read. The story is not only perfectly paced, believable, and beautiful, but the message is poignant. For readers who appreciate Sarah Dessen-esque slower, but oh so worth the wait reveals, I cannot suggest Alexi and Bodee’s story more. If this is what Stevens is capable of in her debut, you can be sure I can’t wait to read what she writes next. 

Rating 5/5

*** I received a copy of the novel from the publisher to read and honestly review. I was in no way compensated. 

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