Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
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.
2 stars. I totally understand why most readers will LOVE this book, but it just was NOT for me.
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