Book Info: Young Adult Contemporary, Review copy courtesy of NetGalley, Available in HC 224 pages
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
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.