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Friday, April 4, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day


by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier

Spring is finally in the air! Say goodbye to the winter blahs and hello to some great debut novels for your Spring reading. Marcy and I are super excited to share our picks with you! Thank you to all of the fabulous debut authors who have agreed to participate. Marcy and I are looking for many more reviews to follow.

Welcome to April’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Courtney Stevens and her novel, Faking Normal,an absolutely riveting book about a girl who must learn to cope with a secret she’s been hiding since summer, one she’s literally destroying herself over.

Marcy first learned about Courtney’s book journey from our good friend Kate Dopirak through an article she submitted to Marcy for the SCBWI newsletter. You can read that article here.

When we learned that Courtney’s book was out, Marcy and I couldn’t wait to read it. We were not disappointed. We hope you enjoy our answers and encourage you to buy the book.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – The section I chose comes from near the end of the book when Lexi, the main character, has emotionally come to grips with what has happened to her. She’s in the woods behind her house watching a bird and wondering why it hadn’t flown south for the winter. I believe this section contrasts well with what Marcy picked (see below), which comes from earlier in the novel.

This morning, for one second between my pain and the fear that Bodee would tell, I imagined what it would be like to be free.

That’s what Bodee is imagining for me, I think. What he wants for me.


The choice is mine, I realize. I can be the bird clinging to a windowsill in Tennessee when all my friends are in Florida, or I can be the bird who flies away.

I can be free.

I decided to keep my secret, and now, I decide to let it go.

Marcy – This paragraph captured the mental and physical pain of the main character Lexi. This part of the book really stood out for me as Lexi tries to cope with what has happened to her. One way she copes is by clawing the back of her neck with her nails.

Blood smears into the collar of my shirt. It’ll never go into the hamper for Mom to wash. “You let him. You let him.” God, I wish I could bleed him out of my life. If only I could make the outside hurt more than the inside.

To keep myself from scratching deeper, I push open the door a sliver and stare at my bedroom ceiling. My breath leaves me, and the numbers start automatically. The compulsion is overwhelming. I have to count.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine.

Don’t Blink. My eyes start to burn.

Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. I can’t blink. I’m almost there.

Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen.



No matter. I’ll start over and try again to reach twenty-three.

Sometimes I stand on my bed and run my hand over the metal air-vent slits as if they’re a weird form of Braille. Those openings breathe cold air on me. Twenty-two holes of darkness. Twenty-three spaces of light. It’s hard to count them at night after they blur into a flat black hole.

Now I understand all the girls in my school who cut. I used to think of them as idiots who didn’t know how to cope. Now, I realize they are coping. Just not as well as I do.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - My favorite cliffhanger once again came from late in the book when Lexi has made the decision to confront her attacker. She writes her feelings which is the step that comes before her being able to express them verbally. (And I believe I have avoided giving away any of the mistery.)

I won’t be sorry for this. You are not my BEST BUDDY, you are a selfish asshole, and I hate what you did to me!

Marcy – Bodee is an outcast in school. Now his mom was murdered by his dad and he’s living with Lexi’s family. Bodee can’t go into his house where his mom died and asks Lexi if she could go in for him. 

“I found the earring. And I got you these from the kitchen.” I hold out the five little boxes of Kool-Aid.

And Bodee smiles.

Really smiles. Teeth and all. (They’re straight.)

And even though I have thrown up, walked through a crime scene, and rooted through the remainder of Mrs. Lennox’s life, I smile too.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – All along, I was ready to say that Bodee was my favorite secondary character, for all the reasons Marcy mentions below. I even had a quote she listed as one of my favorite quotes. But the more I began reading, the more I began to think that Kayla, Lexi sister, is also quite a complex character, so I chose her as my favorite secondary character and have listed below a quote which made me change my mind. This one came about halfway through the book, and up until this point, the only side we’ve seen of Kayla is that she is a nasty, spoiled sister. They are talking about a rumor around the school that someone has been raped and Kayla is trying to convince Lexi to tell her friends that they should report the incident.

“I mean, to imagine this guy forcing himself on a girl. Like, what if that was you? That boy, any boy, lays one finger on you without you wanting it and I swear I’ll tear him apart. And after that, I’ll let Craig finish him off.”


“You think I’m a self-centered bitch right now, but you’re still my little sister. Nobody’s going to hurt you.”

Marcy –  Of course it has to be Bodee. He is such a complex character. From his Kool-Aid colored hair to the way he knows how to find exactly the right words to help Lexi and make her feel safe. He has lived a tough life and is extremely wise. These two incidents show Bodee’s true character. The first is when Lexi brings him to her fort. The second is at night when Lexi is trying to fall asleep and looks to her vent to count.

We reach the fort’s ladder in what feels like three steps. A spider has made a home in the space between the two bottom rungs. Bodee doesn’t disturb it, but instead takes a high step above the eight legs. I want to squash it, but I climb over the spider too, since he worked so hard to avoid it.

“Lex” – he looks over his shoulder at me as we climb through the opening to the highest level – “your secrets are showing.”

I am neither surprised nor horrified at the way he cuts right to the core. Maybe, in fact, I’m a little relieved. “I know. Weird day.”

And the second

The vent is gone.

A cover from Hatchet conceals the vent’s twenty-two lines and twenty-three spaces.

And I am smiling and wiping at sudden tears. Because he has stuck his one precious possession, using four pieces of tape, over the place I want to avoid.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

Dave – There’s more than a few sections I had picked out for my favorite, but the ones that stood out to me most always focused on her counting the slats in the air vents in her room, because it’s details such as this that makes this story so real and so gripping… And so sad.

But he never looked at my face. I know because I never blinked. I can’t count the slits in the vent without blinking, but that night it was if my eyelids were wired open. I saw everything. Everything. His eyes were closed when it started, when he reached for me for comfort, and I froze. When he kissed me and I stayed silent. And his eyes were closed while he worked. Because he didn’t want to remember I wasn’t his girlfriend. He didn’t want to realize he was doing to me the things he wanted to do with her.

Marcy – This paragraph is so powerful, no other comment is necessary.

“You can’t buy him some new wardrobe or cut his hair and make it all happy. His mom’s dead. His dad killed her. No matter how badly you want it, there’s no magical cure that makes it go away. Sometimes life just sucks.”

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Dave –  It’s the same line I listed above under my favorite secondary character. Kayla won me over when she showed her true feelings.

“I mean, to imagine this guy forcing himself on a girl. Like, what if that was you? That boy, any boy, lays one finger on you without you wanting it and I swear I’ll tear him apart. And after that, I’ll let Craig finish him off.”


“You think I’m a self-centered bitch right now, but you’re still my little sister. Nobody’s going to hurt you.”

Marcy –  Lexi’s friend Heather has come to terms in her own way that she will accept Bodee into their inner circle – under one condition:

“Okay, be friends with Bodee if you want. Just don’t go drinkin’ the Kool-Aid. If you know what I mean.”

To read more about Courtney Stevens debut YA novel Faking Normal please go to:

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