Thursday, May 8, 2014

ARC Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Title: Faking Normal
Author: Courtney C. Stevens
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date: February 25th 2014
Source: Borrowed from Chyna (Lite-Rate-Ture)
Buy the book: Amazon / Barnes and Noble

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.
(Image and summary taken from Goodreads.)


When I was reading Faking Normal, I kept asking myself: What did other people see in this book that I wasn't seeing or even feeling? Whenever I would browse Goodreads, I would always see 4-star reviews or even more and that only feel worse knowing that other people enjoyed it while I didn't. Even more the fact that Faking Normal addresses such a hard topic: rape. (Let's face it, we all know what happened to Alexi last summer.) While I find it so commendable and inspiring that Courtney C. Stevens tackled such a sore subject, I felt that she wasn't able to properly deliver it in, in my honest opinion. I will say that not everything was bad but the good parts were not enough to save this book, for me.

Let me first talk about our main character, Alexi. Right at the very beginning, you will already know that something happened to her, it took me reading the summary for me to find out and less than 2 minutes to figure out who was the aggressor (and trust me, I'm not bragging). It was the after that I really wondered about, I'm sure there are a lot of readers who are like me, a bit perceptive when it comes to books like these and my problem was the fact that once you you figure it all out, what then? The rest of the book is Alexi doing mundane things but also slowly withering away. I understand that people have different coping mechanisms and Alexi had hers too, she would count, she would stay in her closet and she even scratches the back of her neck raw. I'm not even going to try to understand what she went through because I now it was horrible but seriously? I didn't feel anything from her. No anger, pain or suffering. It's like Alexi was trying to cope with things without even knowing why she needed to.

The one comment I continuously heard from people (even those who enjoyed the book) was that it was dragging. Which I completely agree with. There was nothing remarkable about the writing, nothing that incites feelings within the reader. Alexi's voice was so bland, so monotonous and it was hard to connect with her. I found it so difficult to understand what she went through because she felt too closed off, and that really saddened me. I wanted to get to know Alexi and see her as more than just a character or a victim but as a person but I just couldn't. Sorry.

One thing that really pissed me off was how shallow Alexi's friends were. Heather in particular, I understand that high school girls now are all about boys but she was so insensitive. Heather would force Alexi to go out with guys with no regard as to how Alexi would feel. Even worse is that Alexi never said no and that is her problem. She's a yes-woman, she can't tell people no. It's just two letters with one syllable. I understand that it was difficult for her to do anything but she really could have said something, and I mean this in all the events wherein she didn't say anything. I was so angry when Hayden took Alexi to the dance where he got drunk and almost took advantage of her but she didn't do anything! Oh my God. Had Bodee not intervened, it would have gotten a whole lot worse. And you know what else? She forgive Hayden and gave him another chance. Are you friggin' kidding me?! I would've given him a swift kick in the nuts in response. I could strangle Alexi, really. And the thing is, she knew that she had a problem saying no to people-- men especially but she never tried to do anything about it. Never. And her family? Her parents are way too unobservant, when you're a parent, you're supposed to notice the changes in your child but nothing from them. I guess ignorance is a bliss. Now let me talk about Kayla, Alexi's older sister. I hate her. She's just a grade-A b*tch and you'll see what I mean when you read about her encounters with her. That's all.

I still don't know what to feel about Bodee. I know that he's a good guy and he empathizes with Alexi and is actually the voice of reason but I am still apprehensive about him. I did like that he was someone that understand and comforted Alexi when no one else was there. He actually noticed that something was going on with her, that is so much better than her parents and her so called friends. He made her brave and gave her the strength to be honest with herself, he was good for her. I won't mention why I can't verbalize what I feel for him without spoiling anything so you'll have to read Faking Normal to find out.

I felt that the real "action" of the story happens in the extremely latter part of the book, that's when you really see Alexi grow but it took more than 300 pages to get there so by then, I wasn't impressed and she wasn't redeemed in my eyes. I felt that Alexi's anger and her emotions were a bit cut-off because her revelations all happened near the end so there wasn't enough space/time to really emphasize on her feelings. However, I was glad to see that she finally accepted the truth and allowed herself to face her demons, opening up to people is a step towards recovery (but I'm not saying there's anything wrong with her... you know what I mean).

Okay, I'm not going to tell you who Alexi's aggressor was but like I said, it was easy to guess but Courtney C. Stevens actually tries to twist things up by having Alexi make an ambiguous confession. Frankly, it didn't work for me, I felt like she was trying too hard to make it seem like there was a mystery but it just fell flat. Maybe next time, Courtney.

I wish that I enjoyed this book more but Faking Normal just wasn't for me. The writing was off, the plot was shaky and I felt that Courtney C. Stevens tried a bit too hard to sell the story. I really didn't like it. But hey, that's just me, you never know if you'll enjoy it or not without giving it a try. Can't say that I recommend it though.


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