Something Like Normal by Trish Doller [website | twitter]
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Marines, post-traumatic stress disorder, divorce, returning home from war
Format read: eBook received from NetGalley
Summary: Travis is home from Afghanistan. He is a Marine whose best friend, Charlie, has been killed. He returns home to a broken family where his mom and dad are on the outs and his brother has stolen his girlfriend while he was away. He can’t sleep because he has nightmares of attacks; one night he goes out for a run and finds himself at Harper’s house, a girl whom he gave a bad reputation in middle school.
Because we’re living in a time of war, many of us probably know of someone, even if not a close relative, that has joined the military. The idea of losing someone is terrifying. My brother frequently contemplates what he’ll do after he graduates from college and he often comes back to joining (I forget which branch he’s interested in). The thought is nauseating, yet there are so many men and women who dedicate their lives to this.
Travis was one of those people. He joined the Marines spontaneously to get away from his superstar-NFL-Superbowl-winning-father. His last year was spent in boot camp and fighting in Afghanistan. When he returned home, he carried the loss of his friend Charlie. He was suffering and broken, but too tough to admit that he had problems. That he was seeing images of Charlie everywhere – and that he was having conversations with those illusions.
His home life wasn’t the best. His dad was (still) a prick. His mom was mousy and couldn’t stand up for herself. Ryan, his brother, wanted what Travis had; while he was away, he claimed his car and girlfriend, Paige.
Reading from a male’s perspective is always so refreshing. I don’t read enough of it, and Something Like Normal made me wish for more. Maybe because Travis was older and had been through so much, I found his voice to be extremely honest and real. His stream of consciousness included the dirty thoughts he had for girls and then skipped to conversations he had with the guys on base about making fun of some guy. I loved witnessing his vulnerability, even if he was too afraid to share the pain with anyone else.
While I feel like this is a book you should most definitely read, I want to point out that it’s quite understated. There’s not a huge climactic event where the whole world falls to pieces. There are big things happening in Travis’ life (possible parental split, falling in love with Harper, and dealing with the death of Charlie), but Doller did a beautiful job of making all those things work together so it didn’t seem like everything and the kitchen sink was being thrown at him. The events all carried significance, but Something Like Normal did not feel like a soap opera with too much drama.
The pace moves quickly and the story is constantly pushing forward. Something Like Normal isn’t an incredibly long book (it’s perfect for an afternoon read), but Doller’s words are deliberate and meaningful. I really enjoyed the originality of the story and being swept up in the life of a Marine – definitely a storyline that is quite unique in the world of young adult literature.
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller was released yesterday. Please find your local bookstore soon so you can purchase your own copy of this great journey. (And while you’re reading, listen to the playlist Trish has assembled for Something Like Normal.)
Other Reviews for Something Like Normal:
- Melanie at Reclusive Bibliophile said it’s “emotionally packed with love, loss, and redemption.”
- Pure Imagination says, “I urge you to read this book.”
- April at Good Books & Good Wine called it a “contemporary book to knock your socks off.”