Title: Faking Normal
Author: Courtney C. Stevens
Pub Deets: February 2014, HarperCollins
Series/Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Source: Won from Epic Reads! Thanks!
In a sentence or so: Alexi doesn't want what happened to her over the summer define her, so she does her best to fake normal and deal with it later. When Bodee's tragedy meets Alexi's hurt, they begin to change each other and channel their brave together.
We know what happened to Alexi at the start of the book. I appreciated that because then it wasn't this big reveal of WHAT occurred, but rather the Now What that we were reading. We are with Alexi when her memories flare up and when her pain is unbearable and when she tries to cope by harming herself. Enter Bodee. He has a heavy heart of his own and an unthinkable tragedy which we also learn immediately. He moves in with Alexi's family so the two of them share a space, as well as secret ways to cope with their pain.
There were lots of things I liked about FAKING NORMAL. There was even loads of potential here and I sincerely enjoyed the read up to about the last 20% of the book. I was able to connect with Alexi and her friends and found their banter funny and their established roles in the group familiar, if a bit trite.
Basically the first 80% of the book is Alexi trying to deal with what happened, faking normal as it were, and how Bodee helps her with that. She helps Bodee a bit, but his tragedy is of a much different nature and not something I think Alexi would have been even remotely equipped to handle.
The last 20% of this book just PISSED. ME. OFF. Which I guess means I was pretty invested in the characters and story and that's a good thing - but I felt manipulated the entire rest of the book by how FAKING NORMAL ended. What you assumed to be true was not true. Not exactly. And the ultimate resolution was so supremely disappointing. Granted, we don't walk through the total aftermath of their decisions, but the way it wrapped up led me to think that the end of the book set the tone for the characters futures and I did not respect it.
I can't imagine how hard it is to write an issue book (or any book) so my opinions are a bit jaded. But in real life, I believe tragedies require counseling - professional or otherwise. Not the case with FAKING NORMAL. And when people do Bad Things they need to be held accountable for their actions. And when we are Channeling Our Brave we need to do so for OURSELVES. Never, ever for someone else. Love yourself first and empower yourself for YOU - not for a boy.
Anyway - I obviously had some pretty intense emotions around this book, so I respect that about FAKING NORMAL. I liked the casual yet thoughtful writing of Courtney C. Stevens (with the exception of some weird phrases that felt like they were trying too hard) and will definitely be reading her future books, despite my disappointment with the end of FAKING NORMAL. After all, FAKING NORMAL had all the elements of a great contemporary, but fell flat when it came to the final resolutions of tragedies and recoveries.
If you're looking for a fresh take on an issue book that has a surprise ending and a boy with a broken heart, FAKING NORMAL could be for you!