Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Faking Normal"

Courtney C. Stevens grew up in Kentucky and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is an adjunct professor and a former youth minister. Her other skills include playing hide-and-seek, climbing trees, and being an Olympic torch bearer.

Stevens applied the Page 69 Test to Faking Normal, her first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Faking Normal:
“What shade are you going with tomorrow?”

“Sugar-free grape.”

“You ever wear the lemonade?”

“Nah, too much like the natural,” he says. “That was for drinking.”

“Your mom bought them for you?”

This time there’s no nod, but there are tears in his eyes. “She was … the best.”

Now there are tears in my eyes. “I’ll make you a promise, Bodee. Long as you’re with my family, you won’t run out of Kool-Aid.”

He blinks up at me. “And I promise you, I’ll stop whoever’s hurting you.”

I stand there barely breathing, and he says something sounds like, “Even if it’s you,” but the words are mumbled, and I’m not sure I’ve heard them right.

If he were Heather or Liz, I’d deny this completely. But I can’t lie to him. Not after today and his kitchen and the Kool-Aid on the counter and his tent and the stack of tumbled-over-underwear on the bonus room floor. We’re already more than the sum of my lies. So I just breathe and look away, trying not to lie with my face, but to stand in the presence of the truth.

It hurts.

There’s complete silence until I say, “See you at dinner.”

When I first heard of the Page 69 test, I wondered what page that would be in Faking Normal. I tend to write sparsely, and I hoped that page wasn’t just “Okay” and “Alright” or something of the sort. I was pleased to find that page 69 is a very important early conversation between Alexi and Bodee, the main characters of Faking Normal.

This moment, this promise, between the two characters is a powerful turning point in the novel. It’s one of those moments where we realize Bodee’s agency and his staying power. He knows Alexi, understands that she is in pain, and he plans to act. (Regardless of the cost.)

And…decides not to hide from him. I’m so proud of her for this.

I’m proud that when she wants to lie, deny, etc., she doesn’t offer anything cheap to Bodee. She doesn’t, because she understands that they’ve been through something sacred together, and that he has enough pain to understand hers.

This is a pivot point from who they’ve been to who they can become.

Previously, she has done whatever she needs to do to keep her secret. Her two best friends, Liz and Heather, have been lied to. Not because she doesn’t trust them, but because she doesn’t want them to see the real her … the broken her. But truth shows up right here on page 69. She can and will let Bodee see her.

The pain of accepting our story, of owning it, rather than running from it is the beginning of healing. Alexi takes a huge leap toward healing in this moment. Page 69 is indeed a tiny sliver of truth from Faking Normal.
Visit Courtney C. Stevens's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue