Friday, February 14, 2014
ARC Review: Faking Normal
HarperCollins Children's Books, 2014
YA Contemporary Issues
Scheduled to release February 25
Source: Received an e-ARC from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
I actually almost skipped over this book while reviewing upcoming titles because it didn't seem flashy or strong enough to hook my attention. But I'm a die-hard contemporary fan so I decided I would give it a try anyway, picking it up as the expiration date approached.
And at first it seemed like a pretty basic contemporary. Over the previous summer, something happened to Lexi, something that torments her, that robs her of sleep, and leads to her furiously scratching her skin in the middle of the night. Though outwardly Lexi seems to be the same, the trauma of the past summer is taking its toll. Complicating her life is the new boarder in her family's house, Bodee Lennox whose father murdered his mother, leaving him orphaned and warmly welcomed by Lexi's family. His silent strength is a safe refuge for Lexi as tries to confront the past and stop faking normality.
From the writing, it soon becomes apparent that Lexi was raped but that she struggles to use that word because she didn't say no. This absolutely broke my heart. From my readings around the internet, I've seen this offered as a defense against rape. Because the word "no" was not uttered, it is suggested that it was not rape. But it definitely is and it makes me all the more passionate about supporting yes means yes and the idea of affirmative consent (visit here for a starting point). Her rapist is a pretty big part of her life (see SPOILER DISCUSSION below for a few more thoughts) and Lexi is genuinely concerned about ruining his future prospects with her words. I've read more than a few YA books about rape but I don't remember one where the young lady was forced into such close continual contact with her rapist and that relationship had such an emotional impact on me. Though it crept up on me, the emotions of the book really built and hit hard near the end.
While this secret hangs over the entirety of the book, there are other important moments and relationships. The abuse of Bodee's mom by his dad and the horror of living in that household are something unraveled through Bodee's closeness to Lexi. Female friendship plays an important role with Lexi and her two friends wading through the difficult moments of humanity. Lexi's often annoying older sister is also important with a shining moment of heroism at the end; you know I can't resist a sister-sister relationship.
Overall: An incredibly emotional read that is a strong example of writing in YA contemporary. I am so glad I gave this book a chance!
Stevens totally faked me out. Though I initially suspected Craig, the writing soon led me to Collie just like Bodee before swinging back with Lex's confession. I couldn't believe how long Lexi held it together before finally sharing and was completely swept up in her emotions. I also can't believe the coldness of Craig to put her through that. Even if she had been enthusiastic, he's a teacher who's a good decade older than her and who professes to be in love with her sister. What a sick twisted man!