Rating: ★★★★/ ★★★★★
Synopsis: 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.
Faking Normal is a book I kept myself in the dark about. I had no knowledge as to what it was about or what exactly I was getting myself into, but I feel this is one of those books that should be read by everyone in terms of how it approaches the tough subject of rape. Let’s face it, rape is always a scary topic, but there’s various approaches to writing it, and I think Stevens takes a very fresh look at how one may behave after such a crime is committed.
Lexi’s voice is that of someone who is vacant. Regardless of things happening around her she behaves like she isn’t present in a lot of situations unless she is forced to face a situation head on. She tells the reader she’s “faking normal” as a means to show people on the surface that she is completely unaffected by what has happened to her, yet on the inside she completely destroyed, but void of any real emotion. In fact, reading this book, you can see how he character struggles to emote through a lot of the story.
I think Stevens’ choice to portray Lexi this way really works because she giving you a sense of how one might behave in this type of situation. She also gives us Bodee, who brings out the more genuine emotions Lexi is feeling. Truthfully, I actually liked Bodee a lot more than I thought I would. I was worried his character would be nothing more than a knight in awkward armor, but he’s surprisingly more than that once you get over the beginning. What I love is that Lexi and Bodee actually get to know each other, and when they fall for each other, it doesn’t feel rushed or forced.
That being said, I wasn’t fond of how Stevens approached a few of the other characters, particularly Maggie. I wish she hadn’t treated Maggie like she was some hussy and I wish Lexi didn’t make those types of comments considering what had happened to her. It just felt awkward and out of place and I didn’t appreciate that very much. This was the only aspect to the story I really didn’t like one bit.
Overall I loved how this book was handled and how it dealt with this serious topic. There are books before it that have tried and failed to spotlight issue of rape (see Brave New Girl, one that angered me in its approach), but I feel like Stevens does a great job of giving you a mystery to follow, as well as a surprisingly satisfying story to read. If rape is one of your trigger warnings, this might be a book to avoid, but if you can stomach the topic, there’s a surprisingly rich story to engage with.
Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this. Writing this honest review to say thank you
Wow. This book is GOOD. First off, this is a story about rape. If you have a problem with reading about rape, skip this. I actually don’t like rape stories (rape, teen pregnancy/abortion are two of my least fav things to read about), but that’s probably because most of the time they are done SO poorly. This book, is THE best rape book I’ve ever read. Rape is a very difficult topic to tackle, but this book handles it very well.
Alexi has a secret, she was raped over the summer. She deals with it by closing herself off and punishing herself by scratching the back of her neck. I LOVED the way this book dealt with self-harm. I think a lot of people don’t realize that there’s more ways to self-harm than taking razor blades to your skin. Sadly, THAT seems normal. Digging your nails into the back of your neck, not so much. Most people would think THAT is weird. Bodee, a boy who’s father just killed his mother, deals with his problems by hiding under his bed and doing pull ups. Such raw, real, strange, sad ways to deal with your problems.
I have never experienced anything like Alexi has (thank god) and I don’t know anyone who has, but I was able to connect with some of the other aspects of this story. The sister relationship was one of them. My sister and I used to have an awful relationship when we were younger, and thankfully we were able to repair it once we became more mature, but I was able to really understand how bad their relationship was. I was SO mad at Kayla for most of the story, but my heart literally swelled with emotion when she came around in the end and did the right thing.
And Bodee. My god. I loved him so much. He was the sweetest, kindest, most trying guy ever. I loved how he knew that Alexi was hurting, that he recognized it from his own experiences with abuse, and was just THERE for her. He understood why she did what she did to herself, and how to handle her. I loved it when he asked to kiss her and kept reminding her who he was and that he wouldn’t hurt her. I loved the slow way Alexi and Bodee became intertwined and slowly woven into each other’s lives. He broke my heart and the slow build of the romance almost made me cry it was just so beautiful. I wanted to hug him myself!
The writing in this is tight. It flows well and has just enough heft to it that the story is heavy, but not TOO heavy. It’s rich and has some gorgeous moments of imagery. I was totally immersed in it from the very start.
Seriously guys, check this book out and keep an eye on this author. So good.