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.
Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens is one of those exceptional books that are extremely hard to review. With similar overtones to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, this book shouldered the weight of its content considerably well. It was utterly heart wrenching, the pages were filled with a haunting, emotional ambiance but by the end I was filled with an unexplainable sense of hope. I have thankfully never experienced the trauma that Alexi suffered, but I do know what it’s like to doubt yourself, or feel broken in some way. The heart of this book spoke to me with its insanely true-to-life characters and amazing storytelling from Courtney. This is not the traditional story of abuse with classic monsters lurking within every shadow; instead this book focuses on Alexi’s recovery in the aftermath. I think what a lot of readers might have lost along the way in regards to this book is that sometimes we (humans) “freeze” up. Life is never an easy journey (even a fictional one) and for the characters in this book terrible things happen, and their reactions are perfectly normal. Perfectly human.
The shame and pain Alexi feels for not “fighting against” or “saying no” to her abuser manifests as the self-harm she continually does to herself. Alexi is able to fake being normal and happy amazingly well, except there is one person who sees through her façade: Bodee. After living with an abusive father and eventually losing his mother to the abuse, Bodee recognizes the pain Alexi tries to hide. The relationship between Bodee and Alexi begins slowly as a tentative understanding of each other, and ultimately turned into genuine deep affection. Alexi only trusts one person with her secret, and in turn Bodee trusts her with the truth of what happened that fateful day with his family. Their separate pain brings them closer together, and in turn it is only through their knowledge and compassion that they help each other to become whole again.
The ending was more than I could have expected and undeniably appropriate, and I do believe Faking Normal has caused a bit of a book-hangover for me.