Trust me guys–you want this book.
Bodee and Alexi really shined in this story. Courtney really brought out the most out of her characters, and I was extremely impressed by that. I definitely wasn’t expecting everything I got from FAKING NORMAL and while, in the beginning, I had my reservations since I’ve seen so many bad versions of SPEAK come and go over the years–I was quick to notice the fact that this book and it’s author are something special.
I didn’t like MOCKINGBIRD by Kathryn Erskine. What can I say? The narration just wasn’t for me. But the way Erskine said things, the way she described the actions Caitlin made and why she did those things to deal with her issues. All of these descriptions were beautiful, haunting and intense to me. Unlike any kids-with-disabilities book I’d ever read before.
That sense of uniqueness and clarity was something I also saw in FAKING NORMAL. Like MOCKINGBIRD, it didn’t come throughout, but in a few fleeting moments. The edginess and truth to FN was what really caught me from the very beginning, and I loved seeing through Alexi’s eyes. One thing I loved about Alexi was how her voice was so different from Melinda’s, and likewise–Stevens to Anderson’s writing. Alexi truly grows up in this story, and it was something I needed to see from her. Her revelations, secrets and every layer of her personality was fascinating to watch unfold.
And then there was Bodee. I have to say, I’m really looking forward to THE BLUE HAIRED BOY. I can’t wait to see Bodee’s narration, especially since I’ve written characters like Bodee myself and it’s hard for me to see the inside of them. Mostly because I see them, well, the way Alexi does. Throughout FN, Alexi gets to know Bodee better and the kind of boy he is. He’s nothing like what he appears to be and I can’t wait to know more. I appreciated the fact that Alexi grew through Bodee, seeing and hearing about his experiences, the things they went through in their time together and the experiences they shared.
I loved Courtney C. Steven’s approach to this book. It truly can only be described by the two adjectives in the blurb–which is EXTREMELY unusual–edgy and realistic. There is so much that is beautiful and scary about this book. I recommend it for all edgy and powerful contemporary fans out there. I do have to say there were some things that didn’t appeal to me throughout the book, such as the way Alexi and her friends would talk or how they would act–despite having a religious background. Having a strong Christian faith myself, I really wanted Alexi to emerge through somehow and explain why she has her faith at all–but nothing really happened with that. I really enjoyed the plot and ending though, and though it did have one slow part for me near the end, I absolutely loved FAKING NORMAL It is certainly worth a read and it is an incredibly moving, exceptional addition to the YA world. 4.3 stars.
1) Your debut, FAKING NORMAL, is about a girl named Alexi and the issues she begins to face when a boy named Bodee comes to live with her. What inspired you to write FAKING NORMAL?
I’ve had the opportunity to answer that question several times already, and I always begin by saying, “An editor challenged me to write the book only I could write.”
The editor’s question led me to one of my own. “What is the one moment in my teenage years that I wish I could go back and give myself some advice?” When I asked myself that, I had a vision. I saw myself sitting in my closet, tucked into a ball, ripping up baseball cards, and crying. I wished someone would tell that girl, “It will be okay,” and Faking Normal gave me an opportunity to do that.
2) What was your favorite part about writing this book? Least favorite part?
I’ll start with my least favorite part. I knew I didn’t have time in Faking Normal to deal with the punishment of the person who hurts Alexi. That’s a different story entirely, and I didn’t feel like Alexi could go from silence to retaliation in the pages I had. I hope readers will understand that Faking Normal doesn’t advocate for light consequences for abusers, but rather for taking the first step: tell someone you trust.
I have two favorite parts. One: Bodee. Two: I have a unique opportunity to remind people there is hope after abuse. That’s quite a privilege.
3) Do you love music as much as Alexi does?
Yes. Absolutely. I’m a huge fan of The Civil Wars, Mumford and Sons, Daughtry, The Lumineers, Brandi Carlisle, Andrew Peterson, Taylor Swift, Train, and The Weepies. (To name a few.)
4) Were there any lessons or morals you were trying to convey through this book?
No. I don’t believe in writing from that place, but I’m sure they’re on the page. I am made of mistakes and lessons. I told someone recently I know how to make a four-course meal out of dirt. So, I feel like “Get back up after you fall on your face” is probably something I don’t have to preach about, but you will know is me … if you know me. Writing is the same way. I am myself, through my character’s own unique situations, in my book.
I did want Alexi to have part of my own faith background, because I thought her character would read more honestly if we shared those ideologies. I grew up in a household that upheld forgiveness; so does Alexi. She struggles between the idea of giving forgiveness/grace and wanting justice; so did I. I also grew up in a home that believes hope is eternal, and we can persevere through anything. While I didn’t try to force those thoughts onto the page, it probably comes out in Alexi’s mindset and the way she approaches life.
I believe students will bring and draw their own truth from the book. High Schoolers are smart and brave and amazing; they have their own unique and beautiful way of seeing the world and their own way to discover truth. I’m always honored to be someone who loves and listens to them, rather than be someone who shoves my truth on them.
5) Do you see yourself or anyone you know in your characters?
Yes. (Please see question number four.)
Bodee is also inspired by a great friend of mine. He and the character are nothing alike, except in the way they made me feel loved when I thought I was unloveable.
6) Would you ever be interested in writing Christian lit?
No. There are many wonderful Christian authors–Karen Kingsbury is a favorite–but the only type of Christian writing I do is non-fiction. In fact, I just contributed to a college textbook called “Know the New Testament,” writing commentaries on James and Galatians.
7) Who do you look up to most as an author?
Three people: Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy), David Arnold (Mosquitoland), & Markus Zusak (I am the Messenger, The Book Thief.)
8) With your new novella after FAKING NORMAL, THE BLUE-HAIRED BOY, you’re writing about Bodee before FAKING NORMAL. Would you ever want to revisit the world of FN after the novella?
No. Honestly, I’ve taken those characters as far as I know how to take them. I’m so very thankful I got to do a novella from Bodee’s POV. He’s my favorite character in Faking Normal and giving him his own opportunity to get out in the world was refreshing. (It was also very hard.) I would consider taking a character from the novella (Gerry) and writing a longer project about her someday.
Huge thanks to Courtney C. Stevens for doing this great interview and for sending me an ARC of this amazing book! Congratulations on her book birthday and I’m really looking forward to seeing this in stores!