Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

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.


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

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!


  1. Awww, I'm sorry to see you didn't like Alexi! From what you're saying, I could put up with elements of what you didn't like, but not all of it. Rape is something that I think has to be dealt with delicately, and I do think there are a lot of girls who will blame themselves for it no matter what, but it's also hard for me to rationalize someone not wishing ill on the person who took advantage of them, in some way at least. And I always hate to see that someone, even a character in a book, gets off without true punishment for what they've done.

    But yay for Bodee and his ability to give you something to like about the book! Great review, Alyssa! :)

    1. Honestly, it seems like BS to me, but I know what you're saying. A lot of things in this book didn't seem "fair" or "rational", to me.

      Bodee was my silver lining! Thank you, Rachel :D

  2. I would probably be a little annoyed as Alexi's passiveness because while what happened to her is still rape the fact that she didn't fight back seems a little unrealistic in general. Sorry this one didn't live up to your expectations but great review!

    1. Like, her lack of "I-can-be-better-than-this" attitude was so annoying. Why do people put themselves down like that?! It makes no sense.

      Thank you, Eileen!

  3. Hmmm I saw this book at ALA, but I didn't pick it up. I think I would probably get annoyed at Alexi too. Wonderful critique :D

    1. Well, I'm sure you have PLENTY to read anyhow ;)

      Thank you!

  4. I kind of get the silent crying part when you get raped because it's already happening and there's nothing you can do about it, BUT NOT TELLING ANYONE ABOUT IT? I mean yeah, these things do happen, I've seen it enough on all the Unusual Suspects and Dateline and Deadly Women (yes, I'm crazy for watching them all) I've watched, but that is just a crazy move to make.
    And like you said - sex definitely isn't something that occurs in 10 seconds, especially with the way it was described (the massaging, touching, condom, etc.). It probably took at least 10 minutes for the whole thing.
    It also sounds like this one had a rushed ending. :l
    Ha ha, when I see a bird flying by, I'll be too busy thinking DON'T YOU DARE POOP ON ME, not thinking OHHH THE BIRD IS FREE. That's so cheesy and have been done in different books and movies before.
    Great review Alyssa! (:


      Yes yes yes yes. You get me. You get my review. Thank goodness I am not alone!

      Thank you for the wonderful comment, Kelly! You rock!

  5. Great Review Alyssa I am so sorry that you didn't like this book but I now I was not going to like this book for a reason I saw low rated reviews of this book on some blogs but never read the review until I saw yours and I don't read books about rape because it hits a personal spot for me but I also don't read tough issues book either because I just know it will just frustrate me to no end thank you for your honest review Alyssa!

    1. I don't like tough issues books but they're very real, and I read fiction for the escape, not to sob over something that could actually happen to me. In a sense. It's more complicated than that.

      Thank you for the comment!

  6. 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, what my boyfriend did, 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 "emo" 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.

    But I totally understand that you read for escape and that the issues just didn't sit right with you, I am one of the ones that loved this one, but I think that you made great points why you didn;t.

    I totally adored Bodee as well, so well written and developed.

    1. Hmm, that is an interesting point you bring up. I can see your side of things - it kind of makes sense. Sort of.

      But I still think it's irrational and really, quite stupid. I'm not trying to insult you or anyone else who used any of those methods as a way to cope of bring about a sense of relief or control. But I really cannot understand why in the world someone would tell him/herself that it is acceptable to hurt him/herself.

      But I'm glad you enjoyed this book, Brandi. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  7. OOoooooo boy. I had really been hearing the exact opposite! From what you describe, I really don't think I'm going to enjoy this book. I would absolutely hate the character as well. This sucks.

    1. I'm sorry that you think that! But I really had to be as honest as I could, especially since I know a lot of people LOVE this book, mostly because it's a "tough issues" book. But I evaluated the book as a BOOK, and not as a "tough issues", "tear-jerker" book.

      If you read it, I hope you enjoy it more than I did, Vivien!


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