Right around Christmas, I tweeted and posted on the blog Facebook about a contest centering around the book Faking Normal, by Courtney S. Stevens. When she reached out to bloggers to help her out, I jumped at the chance to get the word out because this book needs to be read. I read it several weeks ago and was waiting until a bit closer to the publication date to post my review...until I realized that waiting wasn't doing anybody any favors and my thoughts needed to come out.
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.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
To put it bluntly, this book punched me in the gut and it punched me hard.
I went in knowing that I was going to read an emotional book, I was counting on it actually. What I didn't expect was a book that resonated through out every cell in my body.
Alexi and Bodee...I don't even know what to say about them. As a reader with a few scars of her own, I related more than I care to admit. As a mother, I can't even begin to describe my need to comfort these characters and how I teared up over the way they kept their struggles so secretive. Every ounce of me hated that they felt so alone and I wanted to crawl into the pages and tell Alexi to speak up and that she didn't have to keep quiet. But it is so easy to question keeping secrets when we are on the outside looking in, isn't it?
Being a victim is never easy, but being a victim when you are still learning how to live ventures into the realm of cruel and unusual. Life at 16 and 17 and 18 years old is hard enough on its own, but adding secrets to the mix makes living unfair and both of these kids would have done anything in their power to just live a normal life.
It kind of makes me cringe when I think about the things I complained about when I was their age.
Gotta love perspective...
So it should come as no surprise that I cried for Alexi. Not just because of her secrets however, but also in spite of them.
Yes, her secret is gut-wrenching, but I also cried for her strength. Because of the way that even with the scratches and the closet and the counting and all the anxiety that riddles her body as she tries to keep her family and friends in the dark, she was strong. Stronger than any girl at any age should ever have to be. All in her quest to be normal.
And for several months, she manages to pull it off. Until one day when her life intersects with someone who can see past her facade.
A boy with kool-aid hair who tries to live life while the entire town whispers about him behind his back. He knows exactly what Alexi is doing, even if he doesn't know why. While his scars weren't a secret, that doesn't mean that he wouldn't give anything to also be normal.
And he takes it upon himself to let Alexi know that she isn't alone.
Like magnets, Alexi and Bodee are drawn together. Because of what they feel inside, because of what they think the other needs, because when they're together, they distract each other from the pain and they don't feel so completely alone. They don't judge, they don't criticize, they don't analyze...they support. Beautifully and flawlessly.
As the story progresses, the relationship between Bodee and Alexi begins to grow from one of pity to one of friendship to one of a gentle and super sweet romance. I mean...every girl should have a Bodee in her life. Every boy should take lessons because his heart is one of the purest I've ever read. PUFFY HEART EYES!
And as Alexi learns to let Bodee in, she also realizes that keeping her secrets and faking her normal is starting to eat her alive. He can't fight the fight for her, but he can support her through every single step. All she has to do, is let him.
It is really really difficult to write this review without giving away any of the details. I have to think carefully about how to convey my connection to this book in a way that will do it justice and not tell their story. I'm not sure anything I can type will be enough though because seriously, this story needs to be told.
Ms. Stevens write a story about tough subjects and tough choices and she does it well. There was just enough information given to let the reader know the whos and the whys and the hows but kept the events from being the focus of the story. This story isn't about particular events, but the details in the life after and how, when allowed to fester, can begin to define how a person begins to exist.
And how channeling your brave can be the best decision you'll ever make.
Faking Normal will be available on February 25, 2014. Put it on your to-read list now!
Ms. Stevens, I look forward to reading much much more from you.
Thank you to Harper Teen and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read this amazing book.