Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

15726915 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.

My Thoughts: So. Right off the bat, this book is heavy. If anyone is reading this and needs a trigger warning, well, I gave one when I talked briefly about this book in another blog post. But I’ll say it again, if you forgot, or you’re new (Hi!): This story deals with rape. Also murder and domestic abuse, but the central story, Alexi’s, is rape.

I enjoyed this book. I loved that the writing was in present tense because I was able to feel connected and sympathize with our main character more. We learn right from the start that part of Bodee’s story is his mom’s death, because the first chapter opens with a funeral, and Alexi feeling some kind of connection to him for some reason that she has yet to find out what.

We’re led to believe in the story that Alexi’s rapist is someone other than who it is (at least, like Bodee, I thought it was someone else, but when I found out the truth, it made sense). I think the reason why I thought it was someone else is because of the present-tense narrating and the fact that Alexi lies a lot. She’s gotten so good at lying, that she’s suppressed painful memories to the point she’s actually forgotten all about them, and then something happens, certain words and phrases get said, and something in her mind gets unlocked.

Bodee’s story is just as tragic, though. His mom died at the hands of his father, and Bodee has his own way of dealing with things. Like Alexi scratching her neck, Bodee finds comfort in hiding under his bed. At school, he’s seen as a “freak” and has the nickname Kool-Aid because his hair is always a different flavor. He’s quiet and sweet, pushes Alexi when she needs to be pushed, and backs off when he knows he should.

They develop a tight bond, and I love that their inevitable relationship had a slow burn to it. He knows something happened to Alexi, but not what, only that it involves a Who, and he’s so patient waiting for Alexi to open up to him and tell him the truth without actually revealing the rapist but led to assume it was someone else when it was actually someone much closer.

When Bodee comforts Alexi, he does this thing where he kisses his thumb and places it on her forehead–something his mom used to do with him–and when he catches her inside her closet with the door closed, even though he tries to coax her out, he ends up sitting outside the door with her and counts the slats on the vent in her bedroom. As if he can’t get any sweeter, he takes the dust jacket off of his prized book and tapes it over the vent, and then takes to sitting in the room with her so she doesn’t get scared.

But, like most stories, there needs to be a little drama thrown in between characters, and that’s Bodee reaching his breaking point with Alexi because she won’t tell and he threatens to tell for her, and it all leads to a big blow up and ends with Bodee leaving to stay with his brother. It doesn’t last too long, just long enough for Alexi to gain the courage to write her secret down in a book that Bodee left for her underneath the pillow he slept on, and then she carries it around with her until she gains even more courage to hand her confession to someone, but only with Bodee by her side (of course).


My only problem with this book, really, is the throwaway character of Maggie. I don’t like that she was essentially only there to be the residential “slut” of school. You’d think that with a subject matter like rape being prominent in this book, there wouldn’t be any slut-shaming, but then again, I guess that kind of speaks to what kind of a world we live in today. So, while I hated what was made of Maggie, I can’t fault the author for it because it makes sense. And I guess that’s what pisses me off the most.

I should mention Captain Lyric: so, ever since the start of whatever grade Alexi and Bodee are in, someone’s been leaving written messages on Alexi’s desk in her fourth-period class that she shares with one of her best friends, Heather. It’ll be an unfinished lyric, usually something that turns out to match her mood that day, and then she’ll complete it and write another lyric for him to complete. Heather likes to tease Alexi about Captain Lyric, and comes off as a “sex-obsessed fiend,” who’s still a virgin. She takes it upon herself to set Alexi up a double date between Heather and her boyfriend, and Alexi with a boy from their class (already forgot his name because he’s not that imortant, to be honest).

And then, eventually, inevitably, Heather decides to do a bit of recon and find out just who Captain Lyric is. Throughout the book you have an idea of who you’d like it to be, at least I did, but you get thrown when it’s “revealed” that Captain Lyric is who Heather assumed it was all along, only to be thrown again, and he’s actually who you thought it was to begin with. Not sure why there was a run-around for that, but okay.

Anyway, all in all, at the very least, I give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect enough for me, and one of the more realistic depictions of only one scenario that could happen with a rape survivor. No two experience that kind of incident the same way, and honestly, it’d be ridiculous to even try.

Give this book a read. You’ll either love it, or you’ll probably some-form-of-hate it.

Up to you.



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