Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Published: June 19th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Rating: 3.5 – 4 Stars
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance, Military.
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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.
Ever since reading I’ll Meet You There I’ve been wanting to get my hands on another book that looks into the life of a military personnel and on the way war effects the individual and their friends and family. Something Like Normal dives right into this. Our narrator, Travis, has just returned home from a stint in Afghanistan and adjusting to life back home is not easy for him, especially since his own family is slowly falling apart and his brother, Ryan, has taken the life Travis had before enlisting. On top of this, Travis is haunted by his experiences in war and is struggling with the guilt he harbors following the death of his best friend and fellow Marine, Charlie.
What I love about this book is that Trish doesn’t shy away from the effects of war. In this book we really get to see the toll war takes on an individuals emotional and mental state. Travis is clearly struggling with Ptsd which sometimes manifest into hallucinations of his best friend. In coming home, the people in Travis’ life expect things to go back to normal, but normal is a concept Travis is no longer familiar with.
When Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s known since middle school, sparks fly and not in the best way as Travis’ history with her has greatly effected her life. However, by chance these two seem to be unintentionally drawn to each other and with the time they spend together, feelings grow. I absolutely adored Harper. As a character she’s smart, independent and is very confident in who she is. She’s not afraid of putting Travis in his place but she also knows when to take a step back and listen to him as he opens up about his time in Afghanistan.
Travis is not perfect in any way and he makes several mistakes and at times I just wanted to yell at him for some of the choices he makes. However, Travis knows he’s not perfect and he knows that he has a lot of growing up to do and seeing the effort Travis puts into his relationship with Harper and to see him proving to her that he’s worth a chance is truly heartwarming. It’s not an easy journey and he still has a lot learn but there is hope and I believe that things will work out for him in the long haul.
I will note that the relationship between Harper and Travis does happened quite fast but because of the sincerity and ease of their relationship this didn’t bother me as much it would have. Harper has proven to be a key player in Travis’ journey and watching the two of them interact and confide in one another was heartwarming.
As much as I enjoyed this story, I did have some issues with the book. I think a lot of these issues stem from the shortness of the book. It’s just over 200 pages and to me this length just didn’t allow us to really delve into some of the other relationships presented in this book.
The family dynamic in Travis’ home is very dysfunctional and while I loved the development of Travis’ relationship with his mum, I do wish we had one or two more moments with his brother, Ryan. Travis and Ryan are clearly not close as brothers and there is an incident that drives them further apart. I didn’t like Ryan but I do wish we had a followup moment to their final interaction.
I also wish we had a final moment with his father, who is a despicable man and is very harsh in his treatment of not only Travis but of his wife as well. I wanted there to be a final confrontation between these two just so Travis could have an opportunity to air everything he feels about his father before shutting the door on the relationship.
This book well and truly packed a punch. It deals with some heavy issues and really delves into the psychological effects war has on not just an individual, but also on the people in the individual’s life. There are some great relationships presented in this book, not only from Travis’ relationship with Harper and his mum but also in the relationship with his Marine buddies. To sum up, this is story that is definitely worth reading.