Book Review - Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Monday, January 12, 2015
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Publisher: Bloomsbury Books
Publication Date: 19 June 2012
Genre: YA/New Adult - Contemporary
My Copy: Library - Hardback

When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

I have to mention one thing before I start my review, and for the record, it has no bearing on my review. I recently discovered Trish Doller in a strange way. I had heard the names of the books, and working in a library I saw her books circulate regularly. The thing is, I worked with her husband Captain Phil for several months when I first moved to Fort Myers, FL. It wasn't until after I started my new job at the library and was no longer working with Phil that I found out his wife was Trish. So, there you go, it's a small world. Anyway, once I found that out, I had to read her books because it's exciting even if I've never actually met her. I just finished this one and I'm getting ready to start Where the Stars Still Shine

I really enjoyed this story. I wasn't sure going into it that I would like it which made me a little nervous to read it. I don't usually like anything war related in fiction. I know that is weird since my focus for my BA in History was Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, but because of knowing so much about it, fiction just kind of irritates me. I think because this was set in present day and dealt with Afghanistan that it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Travis was an easy character to care about. Usually I don't feel for male characters as much as female, but I really wanted things to work out for Travis. I liked that the writing made his story seem realistic. Sometimes YA/New Adult novels make it seem as though everything is tied up in a pretty bow at the end, like there should be a "and they lived happily ever after" at the end. Without spoilers, the end seems plausible. Hopeful, but plausible. 

I have read a few reviews on this book and a few say that the PTSD isn't as bad as it really is in life; however, I think there are different levels of PTSD. Not to mention, it's great to bring this up in a YA novel because the truth is lots of people join the military right out of high school, but much of the effects of war is not mentioned, particularly to teenagers. Or at least, I never really heard much about it until after I was out of high school for awhile. It's something that shouldn't be shameful. It also shows that it's okay to need help. I think that's a big theme in this book. It's okay to need someone else to help you. Everyone needs someone else to pick up some of the burden, someone who understands you and accepts you without judgment.

Travis goes through a lot in this book and grows up quickly. There were several actions by him that endeared him to me multiple times in the story. I wanted to punch his dad and shake some sense into Ryan. I cheered for his mom, especially at the end. She started out weak and ended strong. I love characters that change within a story, and this one had two. The book gets 4 stars because while I liked the story, characters, and lessons, it didn't quite have that thing that makes it a book I absolutely love. Still, I recommend this book and I did thoroughly enjoy reading it. In fact, I read it all at once.

Favorite Quote:
But here's the thing: the strings are already attached.


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