Faking Normal, written by the lovely Courtney C. Stevens, tells the story of two broken teenagers and how they tentatively begin to heal after being thrown together. Alexi Littrell harbors a secret that claws at her from the inside out, causing her to retreat to her closet where she no longer has to fake being normal. A family tragedy sends kool-aid kid, Bodie Miller into the Littrell household for an indefinite stay. Together these two forge an unlikely friendship and slowly help each other to “channel their brave.”
It was this book’s total honesty that kept me turning page after page. I was privileged enough to see/meet Courtney C. Stevens and hear her speak at two different author events. Each time she emphasized how this story was one that she needed to tell, and it was clear to me (and everyone in the audience) that every word she wrote was deliberate and packed with raw emotion and honesty.
Alexi was fantastic as the book’s main character. She is not forthcoming with her secret right away, but from the beginning, you get a very strong idea of what happened to her over the summer. Everything about her is tense. Stevens’ writing made me feel like I was seeing the world through Alexi’s eyes and feeling everything she was at the same time. This makes for a very intense reading experience, because Alexi is so tortured by her assault back in July, and so every time her thoughts take a darker turn, I also felt as desperate and helpless as she did.
Bodie Miller was just as heart-breaking a character. The book begins with his mother’s funeral (she was murdered by his abusive father- which Bodie witnessed) and Bodie leaving the church as he was unable to speak about her. He is grappling with the fact that he is basically an orphan, while coming to terms with witnessing his father murder his mom and being unable to stop him. While you never get inside Bodie’s head the way you do Alexi’s, Stevens still made me feel like I knew who Bodie was, and Alexi’s relationship with him is definitely what makes that possible. Because we are constantly aware of Alexi’s thoughts and emotions- and at such a gritty level- we get to know Bodie through Alexi.
In spite of the trauma these two have endured, the relationship they form is one of the most beautiful and real bonds I’ve ever read about. Each becomes a confidant to the other, and even without speaking their secrets out loud, there is a true sense of understanding between them, and Bodie always knows when Alexi needs his support, and vice versa. Their eventual love story totally makes sense within the context of the larger narrative.
There is much more going on in this book; more characters, subplots, secrets, etc., but in order to avoid re-typing the entire novel, I’ll let you read it on your own. Though Stevens takes on tough subjects, Faking Normal leaves you with a sense of relief and hope, and what more could you ask for?