FAKING NORMAL is one of the best contemporary reads I’ve ever picked up. Honest, relatable, and very real, it convincingly brings to life the story of one girl’s journey to channel her bravery and speak up about tragedy and abuse.
Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer by her backyard pool. Instead, she hides in her closet, counts the slats in the air vent, and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does.
When Bodee Lennox—”the Kool-Aid Kid”—moves in with the Littrells after a family tragedy, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in this quiet, awkward boy who has secrets of his own. As their friendship grows, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her summon the courage to find her voice and speak up.
The twisty-turny plot reflects the maze of complex memories and emotions in Alexi’s mind. This was a necessary and crucial plot device for the story, and it didn’t feel faked or forced at all. It was very natural, real, well-written. Lex has a lot of things to keep straight, and she uses destructive ways to cope with her pain. At one point she thinks: “There’s a hammer pounding on my brain that says I’m missing something. Have I forgotten other things? Other things that keep me silent?” It seems like forever, but it only takes months for Alexi’s true memories to surface. She wouldn’t have done it without Bodee’s unwavering support and her own strength – channeling brave. But those memories, those twisty paths in our minds where we lock things down and bury them deep – we can all relate to that.
With one troubled boy with Kool-Aid-colored hair, Courtney Stevens brings out a wide range of emotions in the reader. There is so much to say about Bodee, but I just can’t find the best words to do it, so I’ll tell you how he made me feel instead. “Bodee Lennox is never really anything. I’ll bet most kids in our class didn’t know his name before the murder. And yet his face is not expressionless the way I once thought.” Bodee is full of feeling. He made my heart swell, my fists clench, he made me gasp and grit my teeth and I felt worry, anxiety, love, angst, and longing for that boy. Can you imagine what he made Alexi felt? You will. In moments like this: “‘Don’t you ever touch her again,’ Bodee says.” This was one of the most powerful scenes in the entire book. Bodee was there for Alexi. He was her blue-haired knight (or was it red that day?), and I am so glad he came to her rescue.
Alexi’s friends are well-crafted secondary characters that add so much to the depth of the story. Heather and Liz are Lex’s best friends. They’re quite different from each other, and from Lex. They’re believable, interesting, and have their own issues to cope with that add to the plot and Alexi’s struggles, but don’t take attention too far away from the main story. Their dialogue, in particular, is very well-written: “You’re in somethin’ with him. Like you’re in somethin’ with Bodee.” Heather says this to Alexi one day in 4th period, when they’re musing over Captain Lyrics latest message. It’s just colloquial enough, without being too twangy, that we know Heather is a Southern girl and she has a particular way of saying things. I love it.
Courtney’s writing style itself was very enjoyable. I liked her writing of Alexi’s narration. I liked her unique attention to peculiar little details. One passage written on Alexi’s way to a Halloween party was especially entertaining: “A dachshund outfitted like a hot dog trots beside a little boy who is Batman for the night. I don’t remember Batman with a hot dog, but it makes me laugh to watch them take on the neighborhood.” Of course, I have a dachshund, so I couldn’t let this one go!
I really enjoyed FAKING NORMAL. I don’t often read fiction about sexual abuse, but I knew I had to read this one. I was so glad I did. Alexi and Bodee are very brave, they have so much strength that they can pass on to readers. I would highly recommend this book for all teens, girls or boys.
Friday is the last day to pre-order CHANNEL YOUR BRAVE t-shirts from Courtney C. Stevens!
They are $12. Just send an email to channelingbrave (at) gmail (.) com and you’ll have them by Christmas!
Visit Courtney’s website.