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.
At school, nobody sees the scratches or her pain. The only person she connects with is the mysterious Captain Lyric, who writes song lyrics on her fourth-period desk for her to complete. With pencil marks and music, Alexi carves out a comfortable space for herself as she and the Captain finish each other's songs - words on a desk feel safer than words spoken aloud.
But when Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend who understands her better than anyone. He has secrets of his own and knows all about suffering in silence. 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 speak up.
With her powerful, moving debut novel, author Courtney C. Stevens emerges as an extraordinary new talent to watch.
©2014 Courtney C. Stevens (P)2014 HarperCollinsPublishers
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3 out of 5 stars
By The Reading Date on 08-03-14

Powerful story and performance

Faking Normal is Courtney C. Stevens’ debut novel, and it’s one I’ve had on my radar for a few months since I’m a realistic fiction fan. It’s about a girl dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event, and how she copes, and who she can turn to in her darkest hours.

We piece together a mystery in Faking Normal. We know that Alexi is hurting from an event that happened over the summer. We can see her hurt herself, and avoiding social events, but we don’t know why. Alexi keeps it all inside, like the title says, and can’t confide in her friends or family. Help comes from an unlikely source in the form of Bodee, a boy who is also suffering a great deal. Even though his pain is also so raw, or maybe because of that, he sees through Alexi’s façade and is able to get through to her the way that no one else can.

Though I haven’t been in Alexi’s specific situation, it felt to me that her behavior was realistic given the circumstances. We all have things we keep to ourselves, and the pain of Alexi’s secret felt very real. My heart went out to her, wanting her to reach out to someone for help, but understanding she was not physically or mentally ready to do so. She cuts as a coping mechanism, and another source of comfort are the lyrics the mysterious “Captain Lyric” leaves for Alexi on her desk at school.

Alexi’s friendship with Bodee is one of my favorite parts of the book. Sometimes people are there for you right when you need him, and Bodee is so sweet and careful with Alexi that he makes her feel truly safe.

I picked up the audiobook of Faking Normal, because I saw that one of my favorite narrators Emma Galvin performs it. Galvin does well with a variety of genres, but I think she’s particularly successful with action packed reads like Divergent. That said, Galvin connects with the characters and makes Alexi’s pain feel real. Galvin uses a Southern accent to go with the book’s setting, and makes both the male and female voices sound distinct. Lyrics play an important part in the narrative, so this book is probably just as powerful in print, though I didn't feel like I was missing out with the audio.

Faking Normal is a powerful, emotional read along the same vein as Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Alexi’s story arc is satisfying even though everything is not completely tied up at the end. Looking forward to reading more by this author.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Charles on 05-07-15

It May Have More Truth Than You Can Handles

What did you love best about Faking Normal?

Whether you realize it or not, you probably know someone who was sexually assaulted as a teenager or young adult. I know more than one such person and have witnessed, without quite understanding, the gripping agony such an event can cause. This book takes you into that painful place with such power that you may find it difficult to read, as I did, if you or anyone close to you has lived with the aftermath of an assault of this type.

It tells the story of a teenage girl, struggling with the normal stresses of school, grades, fitting in with her social circle, dealing with the hateful outbursts of a sibling, and desperately seeking a place where she can feel safe, secure, and loved. At the same time, she cannot ask for help from anyone, because she is convinced that the burden she carries is her own fault. Her self loathing leads to isolation and self harm, all while wearing her game face with her friends and family. Even as they recognize something is wrong, none of them could guess why and believe her excuses. Only the patient intervention of a similarly tortured soul helps break down her barriers.

The plot itself could be ordinary, but the delivery is what gives this book it's power. Courtney Stevens has built a masterful narrative that draws the reader into the psyche of her main character with amazing power, and she leaves you haunted with her nightmares. Emma Gavin is the perfect narrator for this novel, and it is worth listening to for her performance alone. As a fan of Gavin's other performances, I believe this is among her best.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered about the inner workings of the mind of someone who has lost her virginity to an assailant, or anyone ready to be swept into that place. A warning: if you have lived through such a trauma, I don't know whether you will find this book cathartic or simply unbearable. I am sure the author intends the former, but she may have done too good of a job here.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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