Right on the heels of finishing The Way I Used To Be, I picked up Faking Normal because the stories are somewhat similar. I used to shy away from books talking about rape and/or self harm for a number of reasons but I am thanking myself for reading them now.
When we meet our MC, Alexi, the rape has already happened and she is living in the aftermath. She is already psychologically traumatized, blaming herself for letting it happen, and just all over dirty. She resorts to sitting in her closet and scratching endlessly at the back of her neck at the guilt she carries. She truly believes it was all her fault because she technically didn’t tell the guy to stop, but at the same time she was just a child so legally she didn’t have to say the word NO. Alexi tries so hard to move on with her life, trying to act like this terrible event never happened. She tries to keep everything as normal as ever by hanging out with her best friend, doing well in school, and having the occasional swoon-worthy fantasies. During a family meeting, Alexi is shocked to discover that Bodee, a boy she knows of mainly as “The Kool-aid Kid”, will be staying with them for a while. Bodee just went through a truly horrific ordeal and has nowhere else to go. This starts the beautiful and amazing friendship between Alexi and Bodee. Both have deep, dark secrets that nobody knows about, but they end up giving each other the strength to face their demons head on.
While The Way I Used to Be was a story of the MC on a terribly destructive path due to her rape, this story shows how not all rapes and rape victims are the same. This story stands apart as it shows the importance of a rape that is wrongfully blamed, where the victim thinks it was her fault and therefore excusable. Alexi tried so very, very hard to pretend it didn’t happen but the effects are still there. She resorts to self-harm as a way of trying to cope with the event.
The characters are so brilliantly written that they help make this story the powerhouse it is. I believe every single one of them had a huge role to play and they were crafted beautifully. My obvious favorite is Bodee. His character touched my soul. I see him being the pure definition of a book boyfriend. In this story, he is just as fractured and broken as Alexi, but he is so kind, protective, and understanding. Alexi’s ever present girl friends in the story remind the reader that friendship is a very positive thing and it is needed in real life. All of this positive around Alexi helped to give her the strength to do and say what was necessary.
The pacing and plot of this story were amazing. I did try to guess who Alexi’s rapist was as it was not mentioned early on. It was a mystery so that left the reader wondering and I’m glad it was not revealed until the very end. I was on the edge of my seat the entire book because I wanted to know what happened between Alexi and Bodee more than anything. Their relationship was so powerful that I wanted to read about that. Their constant ups and downs felt so real.
Overall, I adored this book. Yes, it was hard to read. Yes, parts of the story made me want to scream. Yes, I was frustrated at the characters for not saying sooner what should have been said. But to me, that is what makes a dang good book. The ones you cannot put down, the ones that stay with you and leave you in a daze. That is what this book did for me. It sucker punched me, then welcomed me back into a loving embrace that told me everything was going to be okay. I highly recommend this book to everyone if they have not already read it. This is a topic and a story that everyone should read.