Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Faking Normal
Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
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.

Publishes in US: February 25th 2014 by HarperCollins Children's Books
Genre: YA Contemp
Source: Harper Teen
Series?The Blue-Haired Boy by Courtney C. Stevens Novella expected publication: March 4th 2014 by HarperTeen.

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Author stalk away: ~site ~twitter ~facebook

 
    I wanted to read Faking Normal because I am drawn to anything about self-harm. I used to be a cutter and still get the urges to sometimes. But books like this aren't really a trigger for me, just like I can read about suicide and depression. Everyone should know their limits. To me, it is very therapeutic and it gives me a sense of really being connected with the character and knowing that I am past that and they can heal as well. But I think that it handled these touchy personal subjects in a delicate and tasteful way. 
    Courtney Stevens wrote a winner in Faking Normal. I was able to connect to Alexi, her pain was palpable and I totally relate with the putting on a mask and pretending like everything is okay on the outside when deep down there is pain. I don't share her particular pain of the past but there are things that I never wanted to talk about either, and put on that front. But her journey to realizing that she can trust her family and the right friends with her heart and her pain is so beautiful, watching her become strong enough to tell the truth and stand up for herself is amazing.  
    I think that Alexi's silence is all too common. That she thinks she can handle it, and that she doesn't want the pain to be out in the world. She thinks it is her fault which is also common in these cases. I think that in these aspects, it keeps it really realistic and makes her sympathetic to what others have experienced. She couldn't find her voice to say no, but she was crying. She blames herself in this way too, while I wished she would have made a clear word or pushed him away, if she didn't want it, it is rape. That is hard too, that fine line of letting it happen and it being rape. But I think with the obvious circumstances when you find out who, it is a line that never should have been crossed. They weren't in any sort of relationship and it wasn't a precedent. So, like I said, amazingly handled, and I think that it shows a new issue. When she was raped but unable to actually verbalize no. Her silence is such a theme in this book, and finding her voice is such growth in her. 
    And the circumstances for how it comes about is through Bodee. He is the underdog, the Kool Aid kid because he dyes his hair a rainbow of colors with Kool Aid and his painful past. He is quiet, awkward, but loyal to a fault. Over time as they are living in the same house, they begin to talk with each other or even just sit in silence together and they have a bond because they can recognize that pain beneath the surface. I loved everything about Bodee--that he doesn't have the need to fill silences, that he is strong, observant, and that he's a good guy. He steps in and talks with Alexi, lets her know that she can trust him and he proves himself as a friend over and over and going above and beyond what even a best friend might do. He is an ultimate book boyfriend and he is what made this a 5 star, amazing instead of just a 4, I love it. Because it is a friendship, a slow burn, a build up and anticipation. They want to help each other through their pain, give their fears and past a voice, help the other one be stronger. 
    "And I promise to stop whoever is hurting you."
     I stand there barely breathing and he says something that sounds like "Even if it's you." 
How can you not love a boy man like that? Life has shown him the hard way that it can be cruel but also beautiful and even when he didn't before, to stand up for who he cares about and help them get out of the way of pain.  He is so well developed and fleshed out. Amazingness.
   The story never lets up and there is character development and relationship progress at every turn. I thought that I had everything figured out but I didn't. There were things and twists that took me by surprise and ended up making it even more powerful. I read this literally in one sitting, and it kept this stay at home mommy who has to get up at 7am up until past 3 devouring these words and characters that stole my heart. 
    So, I saw on my dear friend blogger The Eater of Books (even though the issues didn't sit well with her, she like me loved Bodee) but she posed the question, why do people cut, that it didn't make sense to her personally. EDITED to add: I don't think at all that she was being judgemental. I think she just didn't get it, and I never used to either) So, as I have experience with this, I ended up writing a novella, and thought that I would put it here since it relates to the book. So... I will chime in and say that the cutting-- the nails on the neck--scars on wrist, whatever, I have been there and done that. It really does provide a sense of relief if you have ptsd or depression or even something hard in the past.
 It gives a sense of control, and release. I used to do it because I wasn't in control of what my parents did, where I lived, what other kids said about me behind my back, what my boyfriend did--if he paid attention to me, if he was mean to me, and even if I gave a voice to it, I couldn't really explain. I felt like I couldn't control anything, but I could control physical pain that I could feel.
YES, it has been mainstreamed as "emo" and therefore it really doesn't have some of the seriousness that it should. It can be a cry for help, but it most likely to the victim can be a physical marker of the emotional pain that they feel inside. 
Maybe that explains a little better the why. 

    And back to the book. The ending is amazing and even though I didn't want to leave the characters because I loved them and wished for more time with them, every thing was wrapped up well. It gave that perfect balance of realistic, giving hope and healing as well as giving me a taste of what their truly happily ever after could be. I wouldn't want them to completely have it in a powerful, deep and emotional story like this, because that would be glossing over their problems instead of seeking true help and healing. 
   This kinda describes their ending, their friendship, their trust, their relationship. 
I know we’re still broken. Both of us. But Bodee’s got the glue to make us whole. He is love.
- ARC, Faking Normal
Bottom Line: Powerful, emotional, and I related with Alexi and loved everything about Bodee.

Books similar to Faking Normal :(links go to my review) The Sea of Tranquility by Katja MillayPushing the Limits by Katie McGarryWait for You by J. Lynn

My question to you, my lovely readers:
What do you think about people who self-harm? Have you ever or can you understand?
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37 comments:

  1. I, like you, have similar history of emotional pain. I did not go out to cut myself, I just became more reckless, because being of Asian decent you are supposed to choke your emotion down anyway. if not for some caring friends I probably would have done something bad.
    So I do understand the cutting part as well, particularly when Alexi had experienced something so traumatic.
    I have not read the book, but your blog is the 2nd one I came across that read it.
    seems that everyone likes Bodee at the moment.

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    1. Bodee is everything a book boyfriends should be.
      Sorry to hear that you grew up and were expected to keep emotion down, and so thankful that you had good friends that kept you going

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  2. I'm looking forward to reading this one...as morbid as that seems right now. I am also drawn to books that involve emotional pain, because I find it most relatable also. It takes that connection with a character to another level and makes it cathartic when they grow as people...if that makes sense.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts :)

    - Wattle @ Whimsical Nature

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    1. I think there is a whole subculture that love this type of book thankfully because they keep being published for me

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  3. Wow, this really does sounds like an emotional one. I'm glad you were able to connect with Alexi. Great review!

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  4. I'm sorry to hear about your past, I'm happy that you've found ways to make it manageable and you're not self destructive anymore. I do love books that has themes that's personal to me, the connection is on a different level and suspended disbelief is easier to do.

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    1. I was pretty messed up as a teen, that's where my dark past comes in with most of my personal experience into this, cutting, eds, abuse, etc

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  6. I really really really want to read this book!! I love powerful, emotionally charged novels, and the characters sound great.

    Thanks for sharing how close and personal Faking Normal is to you. Lovely review, Brandi!

    Kris @Imaginary Reads

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    1. I love the emotionally charged as well as you can tell

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  7. This book is why I love YA so much and always will. It's books like these that inspire me to keep reading after countless boring books. Great review, so excited to read it.

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    1. Sometimes it is hard to find these treasures, but so worth it

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  8. This is a topic that is so important and one that is finally getting some spotlight. I am glad this was well done and impactful. I would like to read this one.

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    1. Yes, it has been awhile since I have read a book that deals with self harm, and don't know if I've read any that covers anything besides cutting

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  9. wow it's rare to see so many stars for your reviews!

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    1. I try to save my 5's for books that really touch me or blow me away. I do give out a lot of 4s though

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  10. I ended up devouring this book in a day! I agree it was such a tough subject to deal with, but I do love my contemporaries which deal with realistic issues in a great way. Also I adored Bodee! Fab review Brandi!

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    1. I devoured it too and agree it dealt with everything realistically

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  11. I love a book that you just don't want to leave. Oh this is such an important subject as well. So need to check out this book.

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  12. Thanks for sharing the quotes. Like you, I can relate to the cutting part. I'd say the temporary relief sensation did offer comfort but then the crash came after the cut and there was the shame and sometimes guilt looping the messy feeling into a downward spiral. Definitely not something I'd do today but I had my dark moments when I was younger. Great review, Brandi!

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    1. GREAT point about the crash and the guilt. It's easy to forget that negative part when you are craving the initial relief

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  13. Brandi- That was so brave to share your experience and it may help others of us understand self harm better. Beautiful review and I know this is a novel I must read, simply because of your review.

    I think we all have our issues, some of us learn to hide it behind a smile, some of us find people who actually care when they ask "How are you?" and some of us work through it, but we are all scarred. I don't think anyone should be judged, fictional or real, for their coping mechanisms. I hope that they find help.

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    1. It is uber easy to hide behind the I'm fine, because you don't want to go past that and don't know if the other person even *really* wants to hear it. But it is wonderful to find those people who you know *want* to know when they ask.
      Hugs, and thanks.

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  14. I've read so many great reviews of this book, now I really want to read it, even though I rarely read contemporaries. I've never personally self-harmed, but I had a friend in high school who did so I know it's a real problem and super hard.

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    1. It is super hard, and I like the new approach to it this one mentions

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  15. I haven't seen an ugly review of this book yet. I am glad it deals with some major issues that are very much alive today. Wonderful review. I cannot wait to read this one.

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  16. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and perspective on self-harm. I do think people don't understand it completely, and it helps to have books that help outsiders better understand it. Everyone seems to love this book, and though I'm sure it's going to make me an emotional wreck, I can't wait to read it and meet Bodee. Lovely review Brandi!

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    1. Oh yes, it needs a warning-- heavy emotions ahead

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  17. So wonderful that it was well done and draws attention to this issue. I am so glad you enjoyed it and that it was powerful and well developed.

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  18. I loved this book as well, the only reason it didn't get a perfect 5 star rating from me was Kayla...god she was horrible.
    I completely understand self-harm, having been there myself. It was really bad for me in middle school and the beginning of high school, but I eventually stopped due to a number of reasons. It's not something that's easy to explain to others, but I think you did a wonderful job of it.

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    1. Wasn't she though? But I think that was the point, and I appreciated how she in the end kicked to curb and was there how she could be.
      No, def not easy to explain, I just tried to put out the feelings I remembered.
      Glad you are on the other side of that dark tunnel, big hugs

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  19. I have this one to read so I love hearing it was this good. thanks for sharing.

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  20. Aw, amazing review. I'm glad you loved this book. I did too :D Love your quotes. <3 thank you so much for sharing :)

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  21. This does sound like an extremely emotionally charged story, Brandi. I'm glad that you can read books like this and find it cathartic. I'm definitely adding it to my must read list. :)

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  22. Thanks for sharing your story, Brandi. I often wonder the Why question too, but it's really helpful to see from a different perspective. As for the book, I'm really excited for it. So far, I've heard great things about it and the topic itself is something I'm always curious about. I'm glad you loved it :)

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