by Courtney C. Stevens
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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.
Now there are tears in my eyes. “I’ll make you a promise, Bodee. Long as you’re with my family, you won’t run out of Kool-Aid.”
He blinks up at me. “And I promise you, I’ll stop whoever’s hurting you.
This book was perfection. I didn’t know what I wanted, but somehow this book always went exactly in that right direction-it went where I didn’t even realize I wanted to go, and that, to me, is amazing. Just wow. Perfectly perfect– It’s not often I find myself grinning like a deranged loon in the dark back drop of our bedroom after the lights go out.
I mean, lots of books make me happy, everyone knows that, but it’s rare to feel such strong, giddy feels that you can’t contain a smile too big for your face. Those moments are unheard of, fleeting, almost non-existent. And I guess it’s even more surprising because of the content of this novel. It wasn’t light or fluffy or full of rainbows (well, I lie, Bodee’s hair was a myriad of colors throughout the book), yet it made me feel happy all throughout. And I think that’s the making of a true author-turning something horrible into something hopeful.
Me: a girl who was raped. Him: a boy whose dad killed his mom.
Us: a girl and boy who survive.
Last Friday I was on the search for a book that would help me get through the moments where I haven’t had time to read my lengthier novels lately. I already had decided I was taking a break from the series I was on, seeing as I was ruining the epicness of it, and wanted something that was more like what I had been obsessed about throughout the summer. I don’t know how to say this without sounding ridiculous, but, I’ve been in the mood for books that aren’t….quite….right. Like, for instance, my absolute favorites this year have been all over the board like I Hunt Killers to realistic drama such as Some Girls Are all the way to realistic fiction centered around mental health (I know, it sounds so bad spelled out like that) like this book here, or My Heart and Other Black Holes. Things like that. And don’t even get me started on my dystopian and fantasy favs this year-we’ll be here all day. Anyway, I knew I needed a good book…I just didn’t know what.
If only I could make the outside hurt more than the inside.
I was scrolling through the feed and saw someone reading this-it was a book I had passed up a year ago, or who knows how long, and all of a sudden I was curious. My tastes have changed quite a bit, even from September 2014-September 2015. It’s so funny to me how you just know what you love and then all of a sudden you are reading completely different things and rolling your eyes at what you used to love. I am so fickle. But, as it is, I am obsessed with this new and interesting genre (for me it’s new) and don’t see myself giving it up too easily. It almost always touches me deeply in ways I never imagined possible, and there is always so much heart. These books have depth that is so hard to find these days..and I can’t get enough of them.
A wad of crime scene tape, meant for the trash. Left behind.
My mind wraps the same yellow tape around the pool in our backyard.
What if I had called the police? What if everyone knew a crime had been committed? Everything would be different. Everything is different-even without the yellow tape.
I didn’t know if I’d love this or not…but I had a good feeling, you know? It popped up on my feed and it just felt right. This is the story of a girl who has a secret. A girl who, despite her front, is broken. She goes through day to day life, smiling and nodding and acting as if nothing in the world is wrong….when, in reality, everything is. Something happened to her over the summer, something that irrevocably changed her life forever, aging her beyond her years. She longs to be normal, to not want to continually cause herself harm to repress the horrible recounts of that fateful night…but, really, she just wants to move on and
Once I’m behind two closed doors, I curl into a ball and suck in the familiar smell of the closet carpet. When I can’t make myself smaller, I cry and pound my fist on the floor. There’s an art to crying without a sound, and I’m a master.
If you don’t like books where the main character causes harm to themselves or where rape is a factor in the story, this won’t be for you. I’ve never had to deal with these issues, nor have I ever met anyone who does, but I felt the pain, the deep hurt, our MC felt on every single page-That fear of other men and the self loathing that came with the doubt of her resolve-or lack thereof-in the matter. She blames herself for not saying no and for letting it happen….but what she doesn’t realize is it’s not her fault, it was never her fault, and it never will be her fault. And I guess I’ll never know if the author handled it correctly, but, to me, it all seemed right.
Something is hiding in my childhood. Something off.
Keeping this monumental secret is taking a huge toll on her. She doesn’t smile without it being forced, her neck is in shreds (secretly), and she walks through the halls with no sense of purpose, just going through the motions. I didn’t know what role her friends would really play in this-they seemed almost like the type to cause problems, in the beginning-but as the story progressed, you could see how much they cared for her, how they would do anything to keep her happy, and how they noticed….but didn’t know how deeply her hurt went. They have their flaws, but what person doesn’t?
The rape has devastated places in me that even Bodee’s magic can’t fix. If he were to put his heart in my hand, he might never find it again. And I’m not cruel enough to let him break while he tries to heal the impossible.
And I think it goes without saying that I loved a boy in this story, hmm? His name is Bodee, and he was perfect-literally. He was perfect. I have not one complaint with this caring boy-He was beautiful, inside and out. But, he has his own personal tragedy-his mother was murdered by his father, and it weighs on him every single day. At the start of the book, we open with Bodee’s mother’s funeral. Lexi’s parents, being good friends of his mother, offer to let him stay at their house since he really doesn’t have anywhere else to go, making Bodee and Lexi closer than they ever could have imagined.
”She’ll take Collie back, so….be careful.”
“Thanks, Lex, but my sights aren’t on Heather.”
“You have sights?”
“Every guy with a heartbeat has sights,” he says.
“Who’s in yours?” My heartbeat betrays my calm voice, and this close, I know Bodee can feel it spike.
“Well, now”-he flashes me the coy grin that I love and rarely see-“you have your secrets, and I have mine.”
I think what I liked most about their relationship, though, was how they both did their best to try and help the other heal. And, even more than that, Bodee was an outcast at school-‘Kool-Aid Kid’, as they call him, and had no friends-it was utterly heart-breaking and soul -wrenching seeing him explore his new found friendship with Lexi-and Heather and Liz, by default. Even more than that, though, I loved seeing his protectiveness of Lexi-his best (and sometimes only) friend. It was absolutely adorable. I wanted to reach in the book and steal him for myself, hug him until all his pain went away….but now I’m getting creepy, and that just won’t do. So…moving on.
”Alexi…I know…I don’t know you well enough to ask, but….could you, I mean, would you maybe…help me with something on the way to your house?”
The starts and stops, the painstaking precision of words, and the sheer length of time it takes him to ask make it clear that this boy never asks anyone for help.
Bring out the dull knitting needles, stabbing my heart, again.
They aren’t perfect-far from it-but they are trying to move forward with their lives-Or, in Lexi’s case, to forget-and are doing it together. Two souls who lost themselves along the way…guiding each other back to the light. I know a lot of people hate the ‘love cures all’ trope, but I don’t know that that was the case here. I think it was more of a guidance and healing type venture, and it was utterly heart-warming to see how they grew, each giving the other strength where they couldn’t gather it themselves. I fell in love with them together as well as when they were apart…their story is one I can say I won’t forget quickly, like I do with a lot of books. I really and truly fell in love with them-permanently.
I think it goes without saying, though, that there was plenty I had a problem with. Well, one thing, really: Kayla, her sister. What a bitch. I’m sorry, but no sister should ever come at their sibling like that. It was disgusting, vile, and completely uncalled for. I must admit, though, I liked what the sour taste added to the story-I’m not sure why. Maybe I liked the diversity. Maybe I liked that things were that much more complicated, or maybe it’s because I got to see Bodee, the knight in shining armor….either way, I loved it.
Bodee Lennox is never really anything. I’ll bet most kids in our class didn’t know his name before the murder. And yet his face is not expressionless the way I once thought. That slight twitch of lips, a little half grin, says more than Heather does in a week. But the full-teeth smile, the one I saw today at his house, is like a work of Tolstoy.
And then finally, the Captain Lyrics angle. I loved this. Not necessarily the lyrics, per se, but the idea of who was behind it. Yeah yeah, there’s really only two or three people it could be, but don’t you love a little side of mystery to go along with your story? I mean, a predictable mystery, but, mystery nonetheless-knowing you know who it is but still wanting to play along anyway…it was too cute. Gah I already want to re-read this!
So, anyway, that’s all. There was a ton I wanted to say even though I really didn’t know how to say it. I think my long intros have a lot to do with me stalling and trying to find the right ways to express how much I really and truly loved something. I’m not perfect, my review isn’t perfect, but I loved this book and I wanted to do it up right for Bodee and Lexi. I hope you all can find something you like about this review that will make you want to give this one a try. And if not…oh well, I tried.
…5 hours of tortuous wait until I could finally read
…4 interruptions once I started
…3 (million) giggles and sighs
…2 hours of lost sleep I’ll never get back so I could finish this at any cost
…1 brilliant story…and a very happy Chelsea.
I never understood life could be so dramatically sectioned, but it can. And is. There is only after. And before.