Book Review: Faking Normal

I know this is the first book review on my blog, but I finished this book not too long ago, and I wanted something hopeful and uplifting in all this post-election drama. So, here it is: Faking Normal, by Courtney C. Stevens.

First off, I am a VERY picky reader. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read maybe a few chapters into and then set down and never picked up again, either because I’m bored or just because something seriously bothered me. Like this implied romance subplot in one book I recently abandoned where the love interest and the ‘hero’ sleep together, everything seems to be going well… and then he dumps her the next morning. Really, dude? It came out of nowhere, and it just felt like a cheap excuse to keep the hero single. Gotta preserve the status quo and all.

Back to Faking Normal. This is a book (spoiler alert) about a teenage girl who was raped, and hasn’t told anyone. Pretty heavy stuff. I know, this doesn’t seem “uplifting” like I said earlier, but it’s handled well enough that it’s not just a constant angst fest or completely dismissive of the fact. Normally, I avoid books with rape and abuse as the subject matter, because there are so many ways to mishandle the situation, but this book was actually pretty good.

Now, I haven’t actually ever been in that situation, so I can’t speak from personal experience. But this book handled shame and guilt elegantly, I think.

I have to say it: this is THE FIRST book I have read in several years that actually managed to keep my interest long enough to finish the whole thing in one sitting. Not even kidding. I finished the whole book in one day. I think that’s a new record for me.

The romance doesn’t overpower or poison the rest of the story, and it’s done well. Both the main character and her love-interest are real people with real emotions, and their relationship actually develops. The love-interest is respectful of our heroine’s boundaries, and I caught myself going “awww” a few times at their interactions. Not to mention, they did something that I see so rarely in teen fiction: they don’t start immediately in a romantic relationship. Instead, they start as friends, and things snowball in that direction. Personally, I think that’s better.

The heroine herself didn’t impress me much, but she’s a teenager and a recovering rape victim, so I’ll cut her some slack.

I have to say that the author did a really good job with keeping me guessing as to the rapist’s identity. I was genuinely shocked when she revealed it, mostly because the author had been planting hints as to this other guy the whole time. But it turned out very well.

I figure this is a good book for every pre-teen to teenage girl (and older) to read, especially in the post-Twilight craze of glorified abuse. The heroine and her love-interest are genuinely good to each other, if a bit confused and complicated (understandable — they’re teenagers). This is a great portrayal of a healthy, normal relationship, where everyone respects boundaries.

Well, there were a few characters who grated on me. But I’m pretty sure that was intentional, so good job to the author.

Final rating: Five stars. No joke. I’ve got a review up on Goodreads, too, if anyone wants to look it up.

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