"There is only after and before." Quote from Alexi Littrell main protagonist Faking Normal
I have been an advocate for the past several years at keeping rape out of Young Adult novels, and will continue to do so until my last dying breath or until it stops altogether. While there have been a few outstanding books on rape told from the POV of the actual victims including Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, more often than not authors attempt to use rape arbitrarily and without merit which is both disgusting and not necessary to the overall enjoyment of the story.
Courtney Stevens Faking Normal is one of those rape books that takes the readers on a personal journey into the life of 16-year old Alexi Littrell and her road to recovery. Since the day the event happened, Alexi has lived her life as though nothing awful happened to her shortly before her birthday, except for the fact that she has certain compulsive behaviors that have been ingrained into her, and are hard to break away from.
"The closet is both my curse and my sanctuary." Quote from Alexi main character Faking Normal
She's kept up a straight face, and hasn't told anyone. She's a good student. She's been the good daughter. She's tried to manage a relationship with her older sister Kayla and her sisters boyfriend Craig even though Kayla has major issues. She maintains a friendship with her best friends Heather and Liz while continuing to keep up the charade that nothing bad happened to her, and therefore, there's nothing to talk about.
But, deep down inside, Alexi is like an actress who is forced to face the audience day in and day out with a smile on her face, while she continues to hurt, and wonders what she could have done differently to prevent the situation from happening in the first place. When Bodee Lennox, aka "the Kool-Aid Kid" comes to live with the Littrell's after experiencing his own brand of hell on earth, Alexi learns to lean on him and allow her own experience to be let out of its cage and out into the open.
Faking Normal can be a tough pill to swallow if you truly don't believe that rape happens to good people. Lex is a good person with a good heart. She's kept secrets because she's afraid that they might destroy her and her family and therefore leaving her all alone and it takes a bit of pushing by Bodee in a subtle way in order for her to TELL SOMEONE. I think that was one of my main objections to the story was that Alexi's troubles could have been avoided by TELLING SOMEONE the NIGHT the event happened, or even the day after.
There are also side show situations, including the ring around the posies teen angst and boyfriend troubles with Heather and Liz that I felt were a bit off the shoulder. But, this is, after-all, a story about a teenager who is raped, and how she deals with the situation, which includes dealing with her friends shenanigans and their boy troubles.
I will say this, Alexi's case is one in which no teenager should avoid reading about. Schools and parents should be standing up and telling girls of all ages that if someone touches them inappropriately or forces themselves on you, SPEAK OUT IMMEDIATELY! I know that there are circumstances where rape victims are treated unkindly by society and even ostracized for speaking out. I know this because I. AM. A. RAPE. VICTIM. I faced my accuser in court and lived to tell about it. Today, I am glad that I did stand up for myself even though you never truly ever move on from the experience and continue to live through the nightmare when someone tosses in rape into a movie, TV show, or book that I enjoy.
There is a whole bunch of emotional baggage to wade through. Add in Bodee's to the mix, and you can't help but want to grab hold of both characters and give them a hug. I think one of the more interesting aspects of this story was the mystery behind Captain Lyrics and how long it would take Alexi to figure out it was the boy standing right in front of her. I will close my review by saying that if you don't fall deeply in love with Bodee, then I have no clue what you are looking for in a main male character in a young adult centered universe.
*I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*
Author - Courtney C Stevens
Title - Faking Normal
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books
Released: February 25, 2014
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult