Faking Normal

( 18 )

Overview

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.

At school, nobody sees the scratches or her pain. The only person she connects with is the mysterious Captain Lyric, who writes song lyrics on her fourth-period desk for her to complete. With pencil marks and music, Alexi carves out a comfortable space ...

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Overview

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.

At school, nobody sees the scratches or her pain. The only person she connects with is the mysterious Captain Lyric, who writes song lyrics on her fourth-period desk for her to complete. With pencil marks and music, Alexi carves out a comfortable space for herself as she and the Captain finish each other's songs—words on a desk feel safer than words spoken aloud.

But when Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend who understands her better than anyone. He has secrets of his own and knows all about suffering in silence. 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 speak up.

With her powerful, moving debut novel, author Courtney C. Stevens emerges as an extraordinary new talent to watch.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/18/2013
Somewhere between Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson lies Stevens’s rich debut about two adolescents grappling with extraordinary trauma. Alexi Littrell has two close friends, dates football players, and has a family that her older sister’s fiancé describes as “the best family in the world.” But she is carrying a secret about something that happened to her over the summer and is self-harming to mute the pain. Her classmate Bodee’s Kool-Aid dyed hair and quiet demeanor already set him apart from peers, but after his father kills his mother, he becomes even more of an object of pity and curiosity. When Alexi’s parents invite Bodee to live with them, the pair become friends, with Alexi helping Bodee release his guilt over his mother’s death and Bodee encouraging Alexi to speak out about what happened to her. Though the busy plot sometimes swallows Alexi herself, the mood is intense and the story moves briskly, complete with an ending so surprising that some readers may flip back to the beginning to start fresh. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kelly Sonnack, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Ruta Sepetys
“A beautiful reminder that amidst our broken pieces we can truly find ourselves.”
Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Jamie Hansen
Sixteen-year-old Alexi Littrell has a secret. Consumed by guilt and shame, she decides her loving parents and supportive big sister can never know what happened to her at the backyard pool over the summer. While she fakes being normal at school and home, Alexi develops a series of bizarre coping mechanisms and even resorts to self-harm. Only when her shy, clumsy neighbor, Bodee Lennox, in the midst of his own family crisis, comes to live with the Littrell family does Alexi find someone in whom she can confide. By helping Alexi cope with her pain, Bodee finds the strength to move past the murder of his mother. In the emotional climax, Alexi confronts the person who assaulted her and begins to heal her broken life. Debut novelist Stevens has written a powerful and fast-paced first-person story of a young woman who finds an inner strength she never knew she possessed. Further editing to moderate some overwritten passages could have rendered the novel’s message even more effective. Omitting some extraneous and repetitive narrative threads—like the dating woes of Alexi’s girlfriends and the many scenes set in the AP psychology class—would have helped tighten the plot. Although clearly intended as a work of bibliotherapy, Faking Normal deserves a place in most libraries serving young adults. Reviewer: Jamie Hansen; Ages 12 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
2013-12-07
Reminiscent of Melinda in Speak, Alexi tries to find her voice after being raped. Only the self-inflicted scratches on the 16-year-old's neck reveal any sign that someone close to her coerced her into having sex at a football party. Now Alexi is "faking normal" to protect the perpetrator and try to keep the event in the past. But socially awkward Bodee, aka "Kool-Aid Kid" for his penchant for temporary hair coloring, knows she has a secret—because he has one too. After his abusive father kills his mother, he's invited to finish the school year at Alexi's home. As a tentative friendship blossoms, Alexi and Bodee become allies—and more—as they help each other deal with their life-changing traumas and face recovery together. Stevens' debut effort keeps it real and never preachy as Alexi and her BFFs question their sexuality and relationship expectations. Even more realistic are Alexi's reactions to the rape as she wonders why she couldn't utter the word no, whether a rape actually occurred and how her family will react. The perpetrator's identity, confounded by plenty of red herrings, remains a mystery until the very end. Also adding mystery and romantic intrigue is the clandestine "Captain Lyric," who corresponds and seems to acknowledge Alexi's pain through covert song lyrics left on a school desk. A story that resonates. (author's note) (Fiction. 14 & up)
Children's Literature - Justina Engebretson
Alexi Littrell is discovering how hard it is to pretend that life is normal when nothing will ever be the same again, and she cannot tell anyone why. She wishes she could forgot about summer and what happened in her own backyard, but even her compulsive scratching cannot tear it from her memory. Then there is Bodee Lennox, better known as the Kool-Aid Kid; he was always an outcast before, and now he is the boy whose father murdered his mother. As fate would have it, Bodee comes to live with the Littrells, and an unusual friendship develops between these two teens who are both battling their own demons and pain. Can these two hurting souls help each other face the pain of their past to brave their futures? Put simply, this young adult novel is brutally honest, concealing little of pain and revealing much about life and people. The two main characters are as complex as the circumstances surrounding their teenage lives. Their relationship is the beacon of light in a rather dark plot; it is the one thing that really stands out as innocent and good where so much hurt and pain exists. Music is a healing instrument in Alexi’s life, and many teens will appreciate and relate to this. Parents should be cautioned about the moderate to heavy amount of profanity and sexual references and topics, as well as the presence of drinking and compulsive, destructive behaviors. Descriptions are suggestive but not graphic. Overall, this book is well written and unique, with a heavy plot that is most likely not appropriate for younger teens. Reviewer: Justina Engebretson; Ages 14 up.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062245380
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/25/2014
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 146,873
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Courtney C. Stevens grew up in Kentucky and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is an adjunct professor and a former youth minister. Her other skills include playing hide-and-seek, climbing trees, and being an Olympic torch bearer. Faking Normal is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 17 of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 25, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    ***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Faking Norma

    ***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***




    Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
    Publisher: HarperTeen
    Publication Date: February 25, 2014
    Rating: 2 stars
    Source: eARC from Edelweiss




    Summary (from Goodreads):




    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.




    What I Liked:




    I know, I know. I'm as shocked as you are, when looking at the rating. I was so sure that this one would blow me away. I love Courtney - she's amazing and super sweet - and I have been looking forward to reading this one. I don't read too many tough-issue books, so it has to sound pretty good for me to decide to read it. Right?




    In this book, we have Alexi, who was raped by someone (we don't find out definitely until the end, but the astute will pick it up from the beginning, it was super obvious to me), and Bodee, whose mother died (it's more complicated than that). Bodee comes to live with Alexi's family (his mother and Alexi's mother were good friends). Throughout the book, the pair help each other battle their demons and heal. 




    But neither teen's road is straight and narrow. Alexi struggles physically and mentally, by harshly scraping her nails down her neck to make herself bleed, and by shutting out everything about the rape. She blames herself for not stopping him. Bodee blames himself for watching his mother die. He is quiet and serious, but no where near as twisted and messed up as Alexi (in my opinion). 




    I really like how Stevens brings about Alexi and Bodee's relationship. That is a truly progressive and meaningful relationship. It starts with an understanding between the two, but then develops into friendship, then trust, then love. That was well done by Stevens.




    I really, really like Bodee. Stevens didn't make him out to be a sex demon on legs, like most YA heroes seem to be these days. He's a teen boy who seems awkward and quiet and dyes his hair different colors. I really, really like him. Somehow, he understands, he empathizes, and he KNOWS. He's a genuinely good guy, an old soul, a decent person. I wish I knew a guy like that. 




    Bodee is basically why this book got two stars, and not one star. BUT, not in the way you're thinking. Read above. He's a well-rounded character, well-developed, and truly likable.




    What I Did Not Like:




    On to the difficult part. I hate writing in this section when I know that this book could be a perfectly amazing read for someone else. Like, it's probably just me who didn't enjoy these things! I mentioned that I don't read a lot of tough-issue books - well, this book features some of the reasons why I don't read them.




    Let me preface this by saying that I am in NO WAY ridiculing the act of rape. I sympathize with rape victim, and I would never ask that on anyone, to be raped. No woman deserves that, ever.




    For example (exhibit A, etc.), I really, really dislike Alexi's excuses. It's utter bulls*** (oh, you thought I was finished with the bulls*** reviews? Nope. You were wrong. I don't think this is first one of 2014 though!). She blames herself for getting raped, because not at any point did she try to stop him, and neither he nor she was drunk. WELL, GIRL. SEX DOESN'T JUST HAPPEN. IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT OCCURS IN 10 SECONDS. Especially the way the author described it - the dude massaged her shoulders. He touched her. He put on a condom. THESE THINGS TAKE TIME. HOW THE HECK DO YOU NOT FEEL UNSAFE. There is a part in your brain that detects when you feel unsafe - that's what makes the hairs on your neck stand, or whatever. FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS.




    And at no point during the rape did she cry out or scream or tell him to stop or anything. She CRIED, and even that was silent. According to the book, she ran out of words. REALLY?! That's such bulls***, in my opinion. You're about to have a traumatic experience, and you don't think to, I don't know, FIGHT BACK, OR SCREAM, OR SAY GET AWAY FROM ME?! That's utter bulls***. Girls these days no better, ESPECIALLY if they are sober or not under any influences, and ESPECIALLY if the guy is sober and not under any influences as well.




    So, I think Alexi is full of s*** and excuses. She didn't want to tell anyone, because she blamed herself. Okay, wow. THAT makes sense. Yes, you didn't fight back or scream. But that doesn't mean you didn't get RAPED. That doesn't justify the fact that something bad happened. Oh, and get this: she didn't want to say anything not just because she blamed herself, but because she didn't want to ruin his life. OH MY GOSH YOU ARE SOOOO SMART, ALEXI. I'd want to ruin his life just as badly as he ruined mine. He'd be serving some serious jail time, or worse. I wouldn't be sparing him because I want him to have a good life! Are you f***ing kidding me?!




    And even in the end! What was that?! Did he get life in prison?! NO. I'm not going to say what his punishment was, but it wasn't enough. It was NOWHERE NEAR ENOUGH. He got off with a slap on the wrist, basically. 




    Ugh, the ending. It was so hunky dory. Miraculously, Alexi's relationship with her sister is cut and pasted back together. Everything just happens to fall into place for Alexi. Everything works out. You know what gave Alexi the courage to speak up? A bird. A bird flew past her and she was like, oh, freedom, I want that. WELL IT TOOK YOU LONG ENOUGH. And goodness, there are birds EVERYWHERE. NOW, you conveniently see one and decide to spill. THAT makes sense.




    Also? Someone please explain to me why cutting yourself (or scraping your fingernails against the back of your neck, like Alexi does) makes sense. Tell me how that makes things better. Tell me how physical pain makes emotional or mental pain go away. It. Does. Not. This is more of a general thing, than something to do with the book. I know it is a response that victims of crimes have, but it really makes no sense to me. 




    Anyway. I don't deal well with excuses and bulls***, and Alexi is full of both. And when you have a problem with the main character, and the book is written in first person, then you have serious problems with the entire book. Sad life.




    Would I Recommend It:




    This is tricky. If you're anything like me, then no, don't waste your time with this one. Tough-issue books are definitely NOT meant for everyone, but that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy one every now and then. I thought this one would be different, but alas, it wasn't for me. 




    However, I know that this book is a much-anticipated read for many people. And to them, I say, READ IT! Go for it! Don't NOT read it because I didn't like it! Because chances are, you'll love it! This is an excellent book... for those who deal with the things I hated.




    Rating:




    2 stars. I totally understand why most readers will LOVE this book, but it just was NOT for me.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2014

    What my future holds part five

    Part five <br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br> thanks for the charecters. <br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br> <br> i awoke chained to a rock beside anoter guy with blonde hair and gray eyes. His hair color reminded me alot of Sun's. SUN! i looked around franticly. We were in a huge cave fillid with racks ropes cages and g<cr>uns. I saw sun in the far corner. She was dangiling above a huge pot of boiling water. Her wrist her tied together witch the rope was conected to the cave roof holding her up. She had paint splats all over her. I saw Ares pointing a paint-ball g<cr>un at her. He pulled the trigger and a orange spot of paint apperd on her chest. As i looked around the room more i saw a small cage with a girl with brown hair and blue eyes. She looked really hurt and sad like she had been in the cage a while. I looked back over at Ares who had taken sun down and bonde her in chains. They were shackles around her ankles and wrist. Her arms were tugged behind her back and her wrist were conected to her ankles. She had a Golden chain around her neck. She wore only her tatterd cloths that we were captured in. When suddenly a big man with a pin striped suit and a bushy black beard walked in. "Hello lord Zues." Ares said. "I see you have captured the um... girl." Zues said. "Yes," said Ares tugging suns chain. She couldnt move. "I also captued the boy and two other children. A son of athena and a daughter of apoll no doubt." Said ares. "Yes.." said zues nodding. I will take them all to mount olympus immedetly. Ares nodded. Zues snapped jis fingers and we apperd in a jail cell. I was made of solid concreat with a tiny iron door on the far side. We were chaind to the wall. Sun was next to me chaind to the wall with a chain around her neck and around her wrist. She was now dressed in nice old fashion phesent clothes with her hair braided with silver. I saw the other two kids from the cave. They were chaind to the other wall. It looked like the girl wa crying. She wad a big wound on her cheek that looked suspiciously like suns whip marks. Just then a gaurd came in. He was dressed as an aciant greek soilder. He took sun out locking the hevly metel door behind him. Then suddenly the chains relesed around our wrist and i fell to the floor. I looked at the girl and the boy. They exchanged some words and then the boy shoved her away. She looked at him and started crying. I stumbled over. "Whats wrong?" I asked the girl. "Who...who are you.." she cried "im a friend." I said. "What your name?" She asked. "Alex" i responded. "Im alexis" she said. "Do you know whats going on?" She asked me "no idea" i said. When suddenly sun came crashing throught the door thrown in by a gaurd. <br><br><br><br><br><br><br><rb><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br> - &#9787

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  • Posted June 28, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Every once in a while we come across a book that is mind-blowing

    Every once in a while we come across a book that is mind-blowing-good and you love it so much that you can’t stop thinking about and can’t even talk about it for fear of incoherent rambling. 


    Well, Faking Normal was this kinda book.




    Faking Normal is contemporary done right. This poignant and powerful novel stands out among the recent young adult releases and is guaranteed to make you feel.




    Courtney C. Steven’s weaves a moving story of two teenagers’ journey following the aftermath of a tragedy and their discovery of the power of love, hope and healing through forgiveness. 




    “Me: A girl who was raped. 
    Him: A boy whose dad killed his mom.Us: A girl and boy who survive.”




    Alexi Littrell is an ordinary teenager who looks like she has pretty much everything together. But life is anything but normal for Alexi who’s dealing with aftermath of a betrayal and rape by someone she trusted. Bodee Lennox aka the Kool Aid Kid, is a survivor of domestic violence whose mother was murdered by his father. 




    Steven’s breaks free of the ‘strong female protagonist’ mould and gives us a heroine who’s utterly refreshing. Don’t get me wrong Alexi is strong after all, she is survivor a sexual abuse and she helped Bodee to seek closure and testify at his father’s trial. However, she was also human-She knew she needed Bodee’s help in order to understand what truly happened and to forgive herself. Bodee was amazing, guys. He’s unlike any other male hero in YA. His sensitivity, wisdom and kindness will have you falling irrevocably in love with him. The romance was the best kind-sweet and slow. Watching Alexi and Bodee fall for each other was simply beautiful.




    Faking Normal would not be same without Steven’s powerful writing. The captivating prose and mystery element make Faking Normal one hell of a compelling read.




    Courtney C. Steven masterfully tackles the sensitive subject of rape and courageously challenges the common misconceptions in rape culture in this debut. Courtney C. Steven’s heartbreaking and heart-warming debut Faking Normal will without doubt leave a mark on readers.




    MY FAVORITE LINE:




    “There are no words to this music, and that makes me sad. Every song deserves lyrics. Deserves a story to tell.” 




    AND THIS ONE: 




    “And more than that, Bodee left me with hope. For love. For wanting someone to touch me again and to lie with me without fear as my first response. Because Bodee slept in his sneakers, because Bodee asked for a kiss instead of just taking it, and because he kept space between us. He danced with two fingers until I asked for three or four... and his hand on my hip.I know we're both still broken. Both of us. But Bodee's got the glue to make us whole. He is love.” 




    I SWEAR THIS IS THE LAST ONE:




    “But today is better than yesterday. And this hurt is still a hole in me, but it's a shrinking hole.”

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2014

    Firework

    Yay. Thanks!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2014

    Sweet Death

    You doin' good! Keep on writin'!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2014

    Normal me #4

    (Hey guys do not faint or try to die on this chapter. Firework requested to kiss in the story sometime. Im gonna do it.)

    I got up from my bed and went downstairs. I had smell a big delicioius smell from my kitchen. Firework must have cooked breakfeast while I was asleep.

    "Hey why are you covering my eyes,Firework?",I asked."I want it to be a suprise for my coltfriend.",Firework said. I started to blush."I can't wait to see what's for breakfeast.",I said.

    Firework uncovered my eyes. It was waffles with cinnamon and melted marshmellows."Mmm my favorite.",I said. I was wondering how I could repay her. I grabbed her hoof and kissed her on the lips.

    "Wow.",Firework said."Hey I couldn't just eat the waffles without repaying you.",I said."Oh Blazin my parents are coming to see if you are the right colt for me.",Firework said.

    "Wait i'm not a colt anymore i'm a hedgehog.",I said."It doesn't matter what you are just be yourself.",Firework said."Ok.",I said.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    I was expecting something a little darker, maybe even moodier, w

    I was expecting something a little darker, maybe even moodier, when I picked up this book, and even though it was lighter than I expected, I still fell in love with Faking Normal.

    Alexi seems like a normal, functioning teenage girl, except she’s not. She’s hiding something, something that brings her to her closet nearly every night to scratch the back of her neck or to count the slashes in the vent above her bed.

    Faking Normal opens to a scene at a funeral for Bodee’s mom (a friend of Alexi’s mom), who was murdered by his father. Bodee is a student at Alexi’s high school, and at the funeral Alexi reaches out to him, somewhat unexpectedly. With Bodee’s help, Alexi starts to confront her problems, and even helps Bodee through his troubles as well.

    I adored this book, especially Bodee and Alexi’s friendship. It was easy, natural, and it was so adorable and cute. Bodee was the sweetest guy and a great friend to Alexi.

    Alexi was a little bit hard to like at times, mostly because, despite having her problems, I felt like she should have been a little stronger. I understand why she wasn’t, and how she couldn’t say no, but it still bothered me that she didn’t stand up for herself. Even in pretty harmless situations, she still went along with things she didn’t want to do. For the most part, I did like her character though, especially when she was around Bodee.

    I wasn’t expecting the ending, or rather the person revealed to have raped her. I thought it was someone else for half the book, and the other half, I was completely unaware. I liked the fact that it surprised me, but I also hated how normal Alexi managed to act around this person, how even though she felt so affected by what happened, yet showed no signs when around him. She was more skittish around the people who didn’t hurt her than around the one who did. This made no sense to me, and it felt off in the end.

    Overall, this was a fairly light read, though it dealt with a very serious issue. I’d recommend this book to fans of Speak by Anderson, Ellen Hopkins’ Books, or books that deal with real issues. Faking Normal was emotional, but managed to make me laugh and smile, kept me interested till the last page. 

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  • Posted March 22, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    It's difficult to put my thoughts about this book into words, wh

    It's difficult to put my thoughts about this book into words, which is why I've been holding off on doing a review. This book was beautifully written and equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful. It took two broken characters, Alexi and Bodee, and threw them together in a most expected way. Their bond allowed them both to heal and move past their demons. It was honest and real and I had a visceral reaction to many of the scenes. It deals with tough issues and will not be a book everyone will enjoy or appreciate. But, I did appreciate it and I respect Courtney for tackling the issues she did in this book. 

    Alexi was raped by someone and didn't tell anyone. The guy who did it is still in her life. We don't know who it was for quite awhile in the book. I guessed correctly, but I went back and forth a couple times wondering if I had figured it out. Regardless, it didn't matter who did it. What mattered was how it impacted her life after. She didn't withdraw from everything. She had friends. She was social. But, she spent many nights hiding in her closet and self-mutilating herself in order to cope. She feels betrayed, but also guilty. Her pain was laid right out for the reader to see. 

    Bodee, the Kool-Aid Kid, moves into her house after his father murders his mom. He is different. Awkward, but sweet. He is trying to cope as best he can with what life has handed him and is also trying to deal with his guilt for not saving his mother. He was a complicated kid who, even though he had enough to deal with on his own, came into Alexi's life at just the right time. Bodee helped her come to terms with what happened to her and encouraged her to do the thing she didn't want to do – confront her rapist. Their friendship was sweet and perfect for each of them at the time. The relationship that built slowly out of it was beautiful. 

    This book is pretty heavy on the emotions, as you can imagine. I was entirely wrapped up in Alexi's and Bodee's stories from the beginning. Both of them had been through so much at such a young age, yet neither of them acted like a victim. The outside world would have had no idea about Alexi. Bodee was in pain, but it was more internal. Their friendship, and ultimately budding relationship, built naturally over time. It never felt forced. They shared a deep connection with each other. 

    It's not easy to write a book that deals with rape. Courtney did it in a way that not only gave an honest look at what a victim goes through emotionally in the aftermath, but also at others' perceptions of rape. It was frustrating to me at times how other characters behaved, but it was realistic. I thought it was all handled very well, once Alexi finally decided to tell someone. 

    This isn't a light and fluffy book. If you have a hard time reading about heavy issues or dealing with lots of emotions, this isn't the book for you. But, if you can appreciate a story that focuses on how a character (or two, in this case) navigates the stages of grief and pain after something bad happens, and ends on a beautiful, hopeful note, you should definitely give this one a try. I think you'll find these characters and this story will stick with you for a long time. I know it will stick with me.

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2014

    Screaming on the inside.

    Books that begin with funerals have nowhere to go but up, but sometimes the journey really runs you through the ringer....and man, does debut author Courtney Stevens reward you for braving the trip.
    Alexi has known Bodee, well, pretty much forever, but as any school kid could tell you there's knowing - and there's acknowledging each other's existence as you pass in the hall. So why she feels compelled to comfort him when he bolts from his murdered mother's funeral is anybody's guess. But Alexi knows that they both are fighting an internal pain that neither can give a voice to. Something was taken from Alexi in the summer and she's clamped it so deep inside that she can't sleep for the secret, hides in her closet for comfort, scratches away at her own skin as though trying to rid herself of the shell that's the only thing holding her together. The only comfort she has comes from the lyrics written on a desk she shares in a classroom...she writes a lyric that he finishes, then he does the same for her. It's a shared means of anonymous communication that she finds safer than an actual relationship with a boy.
    Bodee doesn't talk to anybody; he's the tall thin kid with his hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched, whose only claim to fame is that his father just murdered his mother...oh, and he has blue hair/green hair/red hair, whatever color comes in a package of a famous kid drink. Thrown together because their mothers were friends, Alexi & Bodee form a bond that has more to do with the secrets that broken people carry than with any past friendships. Can they prop each other up long enough to heal?
    I loved this book and only wished as I finished it that there would be a sequel. I was pleased to find a short story/prequel about Bodee on my NOOK that is a lead in for this book and just reinforces what a great character he is. If you liked Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak or Daisy Whitney's The Mockingbirds, you'll love Faking Normal.

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  • Posted March 11, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    After finishing Faking Normal, I just sat there. I sat there, fe

    After finishing Faking Normal, I just sat there. I sat there, feeling so calm and content. It felt sad, but only because some tears from earlier were still drying on my face. Mostly, though, I was happy. The book was wonderful and . . . it kind of left me speechless.

    YA contemporary with a basis on recovery—from abuse, drugs, or anything else—are my absolute favorite. They never seem to go wrong for me—I'm always swept away in the story, the meaning, the emotions . . . and Faking Normal is no exception. It's the kind of book that, despite any flaws I find, fully deserves a five star rating. It just made my heart happy, and isn't that what a truly great book is supposed to do?

    ALEXIS &amp; HER STORY

    Alexis is the one &quot;faking normal&quot; in this book. She was the one keeping her secret, hiding in the closet, blaming herself, and suffering as she tried to act as normal and undamaged as possible. Her character was a good one. The journey to finding her strength and voice was remarkable. And her reactions and struggle (as well as the reasons behind them, such as a childhood event) felt very well thought out and well done. The author did a great job with her and her journey.

    BODEE

    Bodee was . . . wow. Talk about a good character. He was never described as this hot, muscle-y, irresistible man that makes all the girls go &quot;OMG *swoon*&quot; (I may have stretched that last one. Just a bit. No. He was the &quot;Kool-Aid Kid&quot;. He was the &quot;freak&quot; that people felt sorry for because his dad killed his mom. Bodee's was a, as Alexi herself said, a broken guy. But he was so nice And sensitive, protective, quiet, supportive . . . an all around good guy. He helped Alexi recover and open up about her secret, one step at a time. At the same time, he was able to step towards his own &quot;recovery.&quot; The two characters were one another's rocks, and man, they were good rocks. 

    OTHER DETAILS

    I just want to point out a couple things that stood out to me about the book here.

    Family was good in this book. The parents didn't play very big roles, but they were still good ones. Kayla was . . . well, most of the time, she acted horrible. When it came to her little sister and and the idea of anyone hurting her, though, she was such a good, strong big sister. I didn't like here much until the end, but at that point, she had completely redeemed herself for me. While family wasn't a key element in this book, neither the parents or the sister fit into that &quot;bad family&quot; trope that many people notice in YA.

    The subject matter—well, it does focus on sexual abuse, but it's mostly on rape culture and popular views of rape. Alexi felt a lot of fear of what would happen if she told her secret. It would ruin lives. It would label her as damaged. Most of the time, she thought it was her fault . . . she let him do it, she never said no—that type of thing. The author did well with the subject matter and with including popular fears and misconceptions about sexual abuse. 

    OVERALL

    Faking Normal is a truly wonderful book. Did it have flaws? Yes, it did. Did they matter to me? Not a bit. I can barely even remember what they were. Even if I did remember, my heart tells me this was a five star book. I cannot recommend this one enough—it's a remarkable and important story that is likely to pull at your heartstrings and leave you saying &quot;wow.&quot;

    Source: I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

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  • Posted March 8, 2014

     I have so many thoughts about this book. And none of them invol

     I have so many thoughts about this book. And none of them involve what I was expecting when I had just read the synopsis a long time ago. But I'm happy about that. Because of that, I was able to just really enjoy this and not go into it thinking that I knew too much.
    &quot;'Sometimes life just sucks.&quot;
    pg. 65 (ARC)
         When I found out about this book I was in the middle of a contemporary fiction with bigger issue phase. And when I heard about this one, I quickly added it to my TBR pile. But this one's bigger issue was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. It touches on religion, abuse, and love. And I say love because as a teen, being in love is a bigger issue. And what I loved about this novel is that Stevens wrote about all these issues in such a realistic way. I felt like I was watching this all play out in front of me instead of just the words in my head.  
    &quot;'Mom and Dad believe they invited Bodee into our home to help him, but the truth is, he's helping me.&quot;
    pg. 97 (ARC)
         This brings me to another thing that I loved about this novel. Stevens' writing style. Her writing is beautiful and lyrical. So much so that I found myself closing the back flap and even reading the acknowledgements because I wanted to continue reading her writing. She has the type of writing that you find yourself hanging on every word because you don't want to miss anything. It sort of flows all together, like a song.  
    &quot;'Love is awkward sometimes.&quot;
    pg. 120 (ARC)
          As for the romance in this one, I LOVED it. And Bodee gets an A+, Seal of Approval, and everything else from me. He was there for her through everything and he knew exactly what she needed, even when she didn't. He helped her overcome so much in that short time, and I was so thankful that she had someone. Because that's what she needed. And it was obvious because he drew it right out of her. With his support, she was able to conquer her demon.  
    &quot;'Easy is empty.&quot;
    pg. 298 (ARC)
         The person that did that to her stole away her ability to love and I'm so happy that she gained not one, but so many more people after she lost him. With her being able to look at him all the time, she was so brave. I think that Stevens did a great job of keeping the attacker away from the reader, but I was able to figure out who it was. But all the same, the effect was not lost.
    &quot;It won't come with a bow on it, but God'll tie it up.&quot;
    pg. 308 (ARC)
         This novel realistically shows that life isn't always perfect. It gives a harsh look into certain issues that some teens face: love, lies, abuse, and religion. I absolutely loved this novel and am looking forward to anything else that Stevens may write. Especially Bodee's tale, &quot;The Blue Haired Boy,&quot; that comes out in March.

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  • Posted March 5, 2014

    Alexa is a terribly broken and sad teenager. She suffered a horr

    Alexa is a terribly broken and sad teenager. She suffered a horrible event that she blames herself for and refuses to face head-on or deal with appropriately. For the sake of her family, she pretends all is well and tells absolutely no one about what happened to her over the summer. She ends up blocking the incident in her mind in hopes of forgetting it ever happened… but this just forces her to deal with the stress in other ways, such as scratching the back of her neck obsessively.

    Alexa befriends Bodee, otherwise termed “the Kool-Aid Kid” by the kids at school. They are both suffering, and neither one of them knows quite how to deal with it. Together they learn how to face their fears, as well as how to overcome them.

    There was an added mystery to this emotional story as well. We get a list of suspects presented throughout the story, yet it’s very difficult to figure out who actually did these horrible things to Alexa until she figures it out for herself.

    Touching on several sensitive issues, such as rape, self-harm and depression, and the blaming of oneself in order to deal with a horrific event, this story is also about healing and moving on after something tragic. It’s the perfect balance, and definitely worth a read. A wonderful debut from a sure-to-be up-and-coming new author. I’ll be reading The Blue-Haired Boy: A Faking Normal Story in the very near future. Grab your tissues and be prepared for all the feels.


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  • Posted March 5, 2014

    more from this reviewer

        I wanted to read Faking Normal because I am drawn to anythin

        I wanted to read Faking Normal because I am drawn to anything about self-harm. I used to be a cutter and still get the urges to sometimes. But books like this aren't really a trigger for me, just like I can read about suicide and depression. Everyone should know their limits. To me, it is very therapeutic and it gives me a sense of really being connected with the character and knowing that I am past that and they can heal as well. But I think that it handled these touchy personal subjects in a delicate and tasteful way. 
        Courtney Stevens wrote a winner in Faking Normal. I was able to connect to Alexi, her pain was palpable and I totally relate with the putting on a mask and pretending like everything is okay on the outside when deep down there is pain. I don't share her particular pain of the past but there are things that I never wanted to talk about either, and put on that front. But her journey to realizing that she can trust her family and the right friends with her heart and her pain is so beautiful, watching her become strong enough to tell the truth and stand up for herself is amazing.  
        I think that Alexi's silence is all too common. That she thinks she can handle it, and that she doesn't want the pain to be out in the world. She thinks it is her fault which is also common in these cases. I think that in these aspects, it keeps it really realistic and makes her sympathetic to what others have experienced. She couldn't find her voice to say no, but she was crying. She blames herself in this way too, while I wished she would have made a clear word or pushed him away, if she didn't want it, it is rape. That is hard too, that fine line of letting it happen and it being rape. But I think with the obvious circumstances when you find out who, it is a line that never should have been crossed. They weren't in any sort of relationship and it wasn't a precedent. So, like I said, amazingly handled, and I think that it shows a new issue. When she was raped but unable to actually verbalize no. Her silence is such a theme in this book, and finding her voice is such growth in her. 
        And the circumstances for how it comes about is through Bodee. He is the underdog, the Kool Aid kid because he dyes his hair a rainbow of colors with Kool Aid and his painful past. He is quiet, awkward, but loyal to a fault. Over time as they are living in the same house, they begin to talk with each other or even just sit in silence together and they have a bond because they can recognize that pain beneath the surface. I loved everything about Bodee--that he doesn't have the need to fill silences, that he is strong, observant, and that he's a good guy. He steps in and talks with Alexi, lets her know that she can trust him and he proves himself as a friend over and over and going above and beyond what even a best friend might do. He is an ultimate book boyfriend and he is what made this a 5 star, amazing instead of just a 4, I love it. Because it is a friendship, a slow burn, a build up and anticipation. They want to help each other through their pain, give their fears and past a voice, help the other one be stronger. 
        &quot;And I promise to stop whoever is hurting you.&quot;
         I stand there barely breathing and he says something that sounds like &quot;Even if it's you.&quot; 
    How can you not love a boy man like that? Life has shown him the hard way that it can be cruel but also beautiful and even when he didn't before, to stand up for who he cares about and help them get out of the way of pain.  He is so well developed and fleshed out. Amazingness. 
       The story never lets up and there is character development and relationship progress at every turn. I thought that I had everything figured out but I didn't. There were things and twists that took me by surprise and ended up making it even more powerful. I read this literally in one sitting, and it kept this stay at home mommy who has to get up at 7am up until past 3 devouring these words and characters that stole my heart. 
        So, I saw on my dear friend blogger The Eater of Books (even though the issues didn't sit well with her, she like me loved Bodee) but she posed the question, why do people cut, that it didn't make sense to her personally. So, as I have experience with this, I ended up writing a novella, and thought that I would put it here since it relates to the book. So... I will chime in and say that the cutting-- the nails on the neck--scars on wrist, whatever, I have been there and done that. It really does provide a sense of relief if you have ptsd or depression or even something hard in the past.
     It gives a sense of control, and release. I used to do it because I wasn't in control of what my parents did, where I lived, what other kids said about me behind my back, what my boyfriend did--if he paid attention to me, if he was mean to me, and even if I gave a voice to it, I couldn't really explain. I felt like I couldn't control anything, but I could control physical pain that I could feel.
    YES, it has been mainstreamed as &quot;emo&quot; and therefore it really doesn't have some of the seriousness that it should. It can be a cry for help, but it most likely to the victim can be a physical marker of the emotional pain that they feel inside. 
    Maybe that explains a little better the why. 




        And back to the book. The ending is amazing and even though I didn't want to leave the characters because I loved them and wished for more time with them, every thing was wrapped up well. It gave that perfect balance of realistic, giving hope and healing as well as giving me a taste of what their truly happily ever after could be. I wouldn't want them to completely have it in a powerful, deep and emotional story like this, because that would be glossing over their problems instead of seeking true help and healing. 
       This kinda describes their ending, their friendship, their trust, their relationship. 
    I know we’re still broken. Both of us. But Bodee’s got the glue to make us whole. He is love.
    - ARC, Faking Normal
    Bottom Line: Powerful, emotional, and I related with Alexi and loved everything about Bodee. 

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  • Posted March 4, 2014

    (Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a re

    (Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)
    16-year-old Alexi is hiding a secret, a secret about something that happened to her over the summer, one that is driving her to hurt herself and stopping her from sleeping. If she tells, she’ll ruin one boys life, but the secret is ruining hers.
    Can Alexi really live with this secret? Will she ever find the strength to tell someone what this boy did to her? And doesn’t he deserve to have his life ruined after he ruined hers?


    I really enjoyed this book, the mystery of what had happened and who had done it was super intriguing!

    I liked Aleix, and I really felt for her and what she had gone through. It was easy to see why she was so upset, and why she was having such problems coming to terms with things, and I loved the way that Bodee found a way to help her. I totally got why she felt so scared, and why defending herself was so difficult, and I really wanted her to get things out in the open and begin to feel better.

    I really liked the storyline in this book, and the mystery aspect was done really well. I loved how we had a list of suspects, and it was really difficult to actually know who it was that had done the deed, and I was torn as to who I thought it was, and I really didn’t guess the culprit until the moment before it was revealed. So impressed with the mystery in this book!

    There was romance, but it was subtle, and it was friendship becomes love rather than anything else. I loved the way that Bodee was there for Alexi, and supported her through what she was going through, the same way that she supported him. There was also a mystery side to the romance as well though, with a mystery man who left Alexi notes in the form of song lyrics, that she would then write the next line to. I really liked this mystery too, and I really couldn’t wait to find out who ‘Captain Lyrics’ was!
    The ending was also done really well and everything came together at just the right moment. I liked the way that things were resolved, and I loved the way the romance ended too. I really did love the mystery and romance of this book; it made this un-put-down-able!
    Overall; intriguing mystery and sweet romance – highly recommended!
    8.75 out of 10

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    Posted April 7, 2014

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    Posted February 26, 2014

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    Posted July 5, 2014

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