Lex knows that what happened to her was rape, but she feels responsible anyway; she couldn’t actually form the word “no” while it was happening, and the guy who did it was so sad and needy that it seems a violation of her ingrained nicegirl sensibilities to call it what it was. After watching years of domestic violence culminating with his father’s killing his mother, Bodee has been sensitized to the pain of others; he knows Lex has been hurt, and he knows that she is self-harming, and he is determined to help her in ways that he failed to help his mother. The two form an intense friendship that allows them to be honest with each other, slowly opening up more and more as they break down each other’s walls. Lex’s narrative voice has a honeyed Southern quality laced with surprising homespun similes; her introspection is honest and credible as she works through why she can’t seem to say no when a boy makes unwanted advances, and what responsibilities she has in the aftermath of her rape and to whom she owes them. Bodee is the ideal companion for her; indeed, he would seem almost too perfect if his backstory hadn’t provided him with an opportunity to learn the exact sort of wise compassion and gentleness Lex needs. Comparisons with Anderson’s Speak (BCCB 10/99) are inevitable; while this title does not have the literary qualities of Anderson’s text, Lex as a character is older and has different kinds of supports than Melinda, including faith and solid friends of both genders, making this a gentler exploration of acquaintance rape that doesn’t excuse the rapist but does grant him full human complexity. Readers will end up a bit wistful in their desire for a Bodee of their own, but they will be heartened by his faith that “it won’t come with a bow on it, but God’ll tie it up.”
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Stevens, Courtney C. Faking Normal. HarperTeen/HarperCollins, 2014. [336p]. Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-224538-0 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-224540-3 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 9-12.
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