Released: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: eGalley from publisher
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
Before reading this, all I had seen was rave reviews. As a lover of contemporary YA, especially the darker kind, I was excited. I was hoping it would be something I could add to my list of contemporary greats, such as Ellen Hopkins’ books or This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. I hate to say it, but I unfortunately did not love this book like others did.
The premise of the book is pretty self-explanatory. Alexi went through something incredibly difficult (she was raped. Don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler) and is unable to speak up about it to anybody. She suffers in silence, blaming herself for what happened. She becomes friends with the school outcast, Bodee, after he ends up moving in with her family. Bodee is a lifersaver for Alexi. He’s the only one that notices that something’s not right with her. He picks up on things that others can’t see, and he’s the only person Alexi really feels safe with. They have an awesome bond that I really did love.
Plus, Stevens is a very good writer. I felt like I really knew Alexi and Bodee, their pain felt like my own. I had a difficult time setting down the book because I was rooting for these two so much and I wanted to see how their stories would end. For the most part, I really did think Faking Normal was great, but there is a major issue I need to address.
Something I’ve noticed in many books that deal with sexual assault/rape is the idea that a boy can save a girl from her pain. Bodee was a great friend to Alexi, and victims of sexual assault need friends/a support system to help heal, but there was WAY too much focus put on Bodee and how he basically “fixed” Alexi. I don’t doubt in the power of a friend (talking from personal experience here), but I do not believe that one teen can fix another the way Bodee does with Alexi. Both of these teens went through something incredibly traumatic, things that would warrant professional help. This story is really about speaking up and sharing your story, so I get that the focus was more on Alexi opening up in the first place and not necessarily the healing process, but we don’t see any adult figures (parents, professionals, etc) involved at all, and I’m sorry, but that’s just not the way it works. I think that this sends a harmful message that a guy can make everything better and does a disservice to the healing process that many victims go through. I don’t know. It just REALLY rubbed me the wrong way and I think it could have and should have been handled much differently.
I honestly don’t know how to end this review. I think Faking Normal is incredibly well-written, but I can’t give it a glowing review because of the issue mentioned above. If you’ve it, let me know your thoughts in the comments, because I’m interested in seeing how others felt about this one.