Review Detail

Faking Normal FeaturedHot
Young Adult Fiction 9273
A Hauntingly Valuable Debut
(Updated: September 22, 2015)
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Yes, this could technically be considered an “issues” book. And I don't consider it spoilers to alert readers up front that the theme revolves heavily around sexual abuse and the emotional/psychological damage that results. This book is a potentially important piece that could prove cathartic to those who've faced--or may eventually face--similar pain/trauma (as far too many girls do, statistically speaking). It also could prove helpful to those who may know and care for someone who's been abused—offering an opportunity to build comprehension and empathy.

Told entirely from 16-year-old Alexi's first-person present-tense point of view, we follow her increasingly failing efforts at feigning normalcy in the aftermath of being raped by someone she'd trusted. The 'whodunnit' angle of this story will no doubt be a bane to some—it honestly was to this reader at first. But eventually I was able to accept it as a realistic manifestation of Alexi's trauma that she would be blocking things out and default to interacting with the offender as though nothing had happened. I've seen some reviewers argue that it isn't reasonable that she would respond in such a way, but I've personally seen this same essential thing happen. Negative coping mechanisms aren't often readily logical, and not everyone responds to such abuse, betrayal, stress, and mental fracturing in the same manner. (i.e. Just because some can't relate with it (fortunately for them) doesn't make the depiction less feasible or realistic.)

Okay, now that I've taken some disclaimer time with the subject matter, lets move on to the actual story and style factors:

For a present-tense telling, this book didn't aggravate me nearly as much as that choice often does. I was caught up enough in the pacing, and the come-and-go inner psychosis of Alexi, I could get past the discomfort. Alexi herself is difficult to connect to—which I think is actually part of the point, as she is in a state of disconnect from herself and the reality she isn't ready to face. She's only partially there...and the part we are seeing is trapped in a mental feedback loop of adolescent angst and victim's guilt. But fortunately Alexi, and the reader by extension, are introduced to the enigma of Bodee early on.

Bodee was the reason I kept picking the book back up. A tortured 'old soul' of a different sort, he has his own trauma and guilt to deal with. Bodee's coping mechanisms involve keeping quiet to the point of invisibility, dying his hair with Kool-aid packets, and deciding to notice and patiently interfere with Alexi's self-destruction. His growth as the story progressed was probably the single strongest page-turning motivator, in this reviewer's opinion.

The writing voice is strong—well suited to YA without being shallow or short-sighted. On the down side...it felt as though metaphors came a bit too frequently, and felt hit-or-miss at times--some were powerful, but a few were distracting/confusing. Physical descriptions of characters—aside from Bodee—were also a bit sparse...and most of the side characters felt a bit flat. Although, these issues could possibly be interpreted a result of being locked so close into Alexi's questionably functional first-person perceptions. A related issue that did take me out of the story had to do with the semi-abrupt resolution and Alexi's narcissistic older sister...for which I can only explain with a properly hidden spoiler. (See full Goodreads review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/865508798?book_show_action=false)

But aside from that, I wasn't bothered by the lack of immediate justice as provided by the ending. That part was all too realistic. Abusers don't always face the vindicating consequences we might like to see rain down on them before the epilogue. And in the case of this story, the ending is really more the beginning of the end—with a few things left to be resolved but still blatantly in the works.

Overall, I would not only recommend to the general YA audience, but I would go out of my way to get this book for my goddaughters.
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