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Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Book: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, On Sale June 19, 2012

Book Info: Young Adult Contemporary, Review copy courtesy of NetGalley, Available in HC 224 pages

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

More Info: Goodreads | IndieBound | Amazon

I’m continuing my journey into reading more contemporary with Trish Doller’s debut novel Something Like Normal. This book has received a lot of positive buzz from bloggers and I had to take notice. I recently read Miracle by Elizabeth Scott, a book that addresses PTSD, and In Honor by Jessi Kirby, another book about the aftermath of a military death, and this book seemed to fit right into my current reading mood. The book’s tagline, War is only half the battle, fits the story to a T as the main character Travis is maneuvering through a number of difficult personal challenges. The military aspect is very topical and makes for a rich subject matter to explore. Something Like Normal is another great entry into the new adult category and I couldn’t put it down.

In Something Like Normal, Travis is just returning home for a month’s stay after serving the last year in Afghanistan.  He’s haunted by his best friend Charlie’s death and having a hard time adjusting to family life. Life at home seems trivial compared to his last year in Afghanistan. It’s hard to come home again, especially when his younger brother has taken over his old life by stealing his girlfriend and his car. His mother has thrown herself into the role of military mom whole-heartedly and meanwhile her marriage is crumbling. A ray of hope arrives when Travis reconnects with Harper, a girl he has a bad history with but who is now his saving grace. Travis needs to battle his PTSD and find some inner peace before he can go back to being a Marine again.

19-year-old Travis has a refreshing voice, and he’s not perfect by any means but it’s still easy to relate to his struggles. We learn Travis’s story via flashbacks, visits from old friends, and through his complicated family life. His military experiences have brought on a new maturity that helps him see his family and friends back home in a new light. Travis’s military flashbacks seem realistic, though I’m no expert on the matter. The PTSD episodes ring true as well, and fit seamlessly into the story. Travis is a really interesting character and I was rooting for him to get better and find some happiness. Thank goodness he had his awesome mom on his side, since his dad is just the worst. Harper is a great girl for Travis, and sensible, fun and smart  – someone you want to be friends with.  Their story ends a little too soon for my taste, and I could have happily kept reading about their journey a while longer.

Consider picking up Something Like Normal if you like contemporary, new adult books, or YA with a male point of view. The PTSD and military themes in the book are handled realistically and with respect and make for an engaging read. Travis’s road to healing is touching and insightful. I’m a new fan of Trish Doller and look forward to her next book.

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Miracle by Elizabeth Scott

Book: Miracle by Elizabeth Scott, Simon Pulse, On Sale June 5, 2012

Book Info: Young Adult Contemporary, Received from the publisher, Available in HC 224 pages

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

More Info: Goodreads | IndieBound | Amazon | Author’s book page

Megan is the only survivor in a small plane crash, and now seen as a miracle in her parent’s eyes.  Megan is shell-shocked from the experience, but continues to go through the motions as if everything is fine. Megan withdraws from soccer, her friends, and her classes, retreating because of the ghosts that haunt her. She finds comfort from some unlikely sources, including Joe the troubled boy next door, and Margaret, a war veteran church acquaintance, who can see through her miracle façade.

Miracle is Elizabeth Scott’s 11th book (I’ve read 4 of them so far) and is as intense and personal as I’ve come to expect. Miracle has a raw honesty as it delivers an authentic look at PTSD. I felt all the emptiness and isolation in Megan as she worked through the aftermath of the plane disaster.  The book also takes a look at the individuals closest to Megan, who just don’t get what she’s going through, mainly because she won’t let them in.

The story is told through Megan’s POV and takes place right after the plane crash. She doesn’t remember the crash, but fakes that she does just so she can get out of the hospital already. Bits and pieces begin coming to her and make it impossible for her to resume her normal activities. All of the symptoms of PTSD were there, and it was interesting that those closest to Megan refused to see her obvious need for help. Where previously Megan’s sickly little brother was the focus of attention, the plane crash created a shift in the family dynamic, as the parents became all about Megan.

Two people recognize that not all is right in Megan’s head and become a support system in her healing journey. Joe, her gorgeous next-door neighbor, is one who is no stranger to survivor’s guilt.  And though the book is not all about the romance, the two bond over their experiences. Margaret is another character who stood out for me, and her experience as a Vietnam vet makes her uniquely suited to recognize some of what Megan is going through. Both characters are societal outcasts in their own way and I really enjoyed getting to know them.  Margaret especially stole the book, and I loved all the details about her character, such as her pushing milk on Megan, the homemade bears that littered her home, and her matter of fact personality.

Scott’s stripped-down prose is well suited to the story and subject matter and makes it an intense quick read. Megan’s experience is one that many who have experienced a loss may relate to. The journey is not easy and the characters don’t always behave the way you want them to. This portrait of a PTSD survivor is a gratifying reading experience.

Other Reviews of Miracle:

This Blonde Reads

Proud Book Nerd

Midnight Book Girl

So Many Books, So Little Time


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