Faking Normal by Courtney Stevens Review: Stockholm’s Syndrome

Faking Normal by Courtney Stevens Review: Stockholm’s SyndromeFaking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
Published by HarperCollins Australia on February 25, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository


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.

Faking Normal deals with the subject of rape, but it isn’t specifically a book about rape. It’s about a girl who doesn’t know how to say the things that matter. Her behaviour has been shamed from some repressed memories in her early childhood, and therefore Alexi has learnt how to lie and keep secrets about the horrific thing that happened to her.

It’s definitely an emotional read, as Alexi hides in her closet, leaving gouges on her neck and hiding them with polo shirts afterwards. She has had trouble sleeping for ages, as she counts the airvents on the ceiling every night. Because her attacker is still a major part of her life, she has an unhealthy hero worship and Stockholm’s Syndrome and does everything she can to justify the incident.

My abuser will never hurt anyone else. He’s good and decent, and I was convenient comfort on what he thought was the worst night of his life. 

A major part of the book is Bodee, the guy who dyes his hair with Kool-Aid who has undergone some horrors of his own. Because of this, Bodee spots Alexi’s fake motions of going through life from a mile away, and he’s the catalyst for her finding her own voice. Bodee is a sweet and caring guy, definitely one that is dedicated to helping Alexi. His care and protectiveness over Alexi is adorable, but it seemed like from the very start we were introduced to him that that was where the plot was leading. I did adore the powerful friendship these two had for each other, which is probably the best part about the book.

Alexi’s behaviour really bothered me. I understand she’s damaged and still dealing with emotional scars, but her inability to be able to say no when a guy’s on top of her or say no to a date she doesn’t want is appalling. Even during the rape, there was absolutely NO defiance, screaming or stop at all. Just silent tears, that do nothing to discourage someone with his eyes closed. This girl is a wet noodle that doesn’t even know how to stick up for herself or to assert herself one bit, and I found it really frustrating, like a lot of the things that she would agonise over were caused from her own behaviour. Michelle from In Libris Veritas explains why her behaviour didn’t sit with her really well too.

But essentially, that’s what the plot was about. A girl’s inability to express herself based on some horrific incidents in the past. A blossoming, beautiful friendship between a girl and a boy who just understands each other. It was predictable; I saw who the perpetrator was from a mile away and this is agonisingly dragged out until 70% of the book is over. Other than that, there really wasn’t too much else going on with the book for me to write home about.

Thank you to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Jeann is an Aussie blogger, gamer, reader who loves to read, write, fangirl, geek out and eat food. You can find me glued to one of my many mobile devices 24/7, or fangirling over the latest YA book, TV show, movie or game. Chat with me on Twitter @jeannius88

43 Comments

  1. I don’t know whether I’ll pick this up anytime soon. It sounds like an incredibly emotional read that I want to read one day but it’s not high on my priority. It sounds like a good book on a very important subject which a lot of teenagers should learn about but it’s a pity it wasn’t 100% for you.
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  2. I think there are different reactions/emotions when dealing with rape. I think a small percentage of women just accepts it, they have their own reasons, and without reading the book yet, I think the author just wanted to use that angle for the story. I am not saying that these women are weak, the fact that they try to “fake normal” means there’s a little fight in them. Anyway, it’s a long debate. Differences in opinions. I’d have to read this for myself and see the whole story. Thanks for honest review, Jeann!
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  3. I’ve read different reviews regarding this book and I think it all depends on whether a reader emphatizes with the protagonist’s way of dealing with her abuse and I can also understand why her passiveness can frustrate other readers. I personally don’t think I will be reading this book because the subject of rape always depresses me and it’s not something I’m comfortable of reading. Great, honest review Jeanne!
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  4. This sounds a lot like Rape Girl, dealing with the emotional aftermath rather than the event itself. It can be really confronting, but we need books like Faking Normal that help us talk about more serious issues. Alexi sounds really frustrating though, but I suppose if she were a strong young woman who dealt with it, made sound choices and moved forward, it wouldn’t make for compelling reading. But it sounds like Stockholm was just an excuse or a coping mechanism to justify what happened as being normal somewhat. Great review Jeann, hadn’t heard of this one before.
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  5. This sounds like such an emotional read. Rape is a heavy subject and opens up a lot of discussions. Although i understand the heroine’s behavior to an extent, I feel you when you say that you wanted a stronger reaction from her. That’s instinctual first and foremost, fight or flight, and for you not to have that is going against the grain so to speak.
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  6. Hmmm, the fact that she doesn’t even say no kind of bothers me. It’s a traumatizing experience and she might have been speechless or shocked but… wow. Sounds like a crazy emotional read and I still have no idea what to think of it, ha!
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  7. Sounds really emotional… I don’t know how I would react to this one. I’m kind of pissed though that she didn’t even try to say no. I mean at least some sort of struggle? I guess everyone reacts in different ways, but shouldn’t self-preservation kick in? Sigh. This one is on my to-read pile, so I’ll be reading it soon. Great review, Jeann!
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  8. This sounds great and really emotion/thought provoking; but the fact that the main character doesn’t stand up for herself at all definitely sounds worry-some. Nevertheless, I’m definitely going to still give this a read when I’m in the mood for a book with a little bit of a darker feeling to it. Thanks for sharing Jeann, and, as always, brilliant review! :D
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  9. I haven’t read this, but it sounds like a tough book. I understand the frustration with Alexi, but I get her reaction. I’m the type that will rip balls off, but there are those who feel that in some twisted way they deserve it for allowing themselves to get in that situation. I know some of those girls personally, and it both infuriated me and broke my heart. It’s not right, but when society/family/peers says you bring it on yourself for dressing a certain way, drink too much, being alone with a guy, etc … it’s hard for some girls and guys to realize it’s wrong and not their fault. I honestly don’t think I will read this, though, just because I know it’ll make my blood pressure shoot through the roof. Great review, Jeann. :)
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  10. I understand why you weren’t impressed with this book – I think it’s the hardest to find novels dealing with topics like abuse and rape that we’d like. Most of the time I have a feeling as if author just picked “socially important motif” from a hat, thinking that writing about things like this would mean that a lot of readers will pick it up.
    Great review.
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  11. Thanks for your honest review, Jeann! I’m sad to know that you didn’t enjoy it as much as I did </3 We're still friends, don't worry ;P Haha! With that said, I agree with Dre's comment – different people have different ways of coping with situations, especially as drastic as this one, and as frustrating as it may sound, there ARE women who are too weak-willed to fight back and just take it in despairingly. It's a pretty sad thought, but I'm glad the author spread awareness regarding this. That's always a bonus <3

    Great review, Jeann :D
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    • Yeah I think I let the hype get to me, it was a matter of personal opinion though. You’re totally right Faye, it’s great to spread awareness and my mind is still trying to comprehend! Glad we’re still friends <3

  12. That was one of the problems I had as well with the book.. it kind of annoyed me that Alexi did nothing to help her situation and kept on thinking of excuses for her rapist.

    I was also a tad bit bothered by the identity of the rapist and how the author danced around it for most of the book. I guessed who it was but then again I never guessed it because of any hints the author gave us. It was an educated guess and when I turned out to be right, I was surprised because the author gave no real hints.

    But either way I ended up really enjoying the book because even though Alexi could get on my nerves, I also kind of understood where she was coming from.

    I am sorry you didn’t enjoy this more :(

    Great Review, Jeann! :)
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    • Yeah, I was exactly the same Rashika. I was like yelling in my head WHY AREN’T YOU MAD AT HIM?! Anyway, I guess it kind of made sense when the repressed memories were projected. I think there were hints, at a time she said it was someone she had to deal with everyday at school.. I kind of connected the dots, they were quite subtle ones. Thanks Rashika!

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