Faking Normal is a teen story of trauma and romance. Alexi Littrell and Bodee Lennox are both troubled young people who are smart and sensitive. Alexi does not say what her problem, but she keeps on scratching her neck and she understands girls who cut themselves now. Her classmate Bodee is in worse shape, because his father just murdered his mother. Alexi's family arrange for him to start living with them, and although he has a reputation as a freak, and he colors his hair bright colors from the rainbow on a regular basis, Alexi comes to know him better and trust him. They are able to help each other and understand each other's pain. But they also have self-destructive tendencies and they have major problems to face, so future happiness is not guaranteed. Bodee has to decide whether to testify against his father at the murder trial. Alexi has to decide whether to reveal a secret that could split apart her family. All of this is set against the usual high school background of friends, romance, schoolwork, parties, and family tensions. There's a mystery of who is the boy Alexi calls Captain Lyric, who exchanges lyrics with her on one of the desks in her class. She is sure he understands her feelings because he always chooses the perfect lyrics for her. But the heart of the book is learning to cope with anxiety and pain, and getting the courage to face life. Alexi narrates her story, and she is a charismatic writer, sympathetic and sweet, but feisty too. She is ready to talk about her feelings about boys, sex, her friends, and her family, and she can be funny, but mostly her tone is anguished and questioning. Faking Normal doesn't supply great psychological insight, and it is heavy on pathos with heavily emotional language about how her heart is affected by Bodee and his troubles. It won't appeal to all readers, but it is a story well told and it has a hopeful ending. The performance of the unabridged audiobook by Emma Galvin is consistent and has plenty of energy, but might emphasize the melodrama a bit too much.
© 2014 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York