Something Like Normal

Title: Something Like Normal
Author: Trish Doller
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Pages: 214
Genre: Contemporary
Source: library
Rating: 5/5

Summary from Goodreads- 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.

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I was really surprised by how much I liked this book. I had never heard of the author, and it was about a kid’s first year in the Marines, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. However, I’d heard about it from my new favorite blog, GReads, so I decided to give it a shot anyway, and boy am I glad I did.

I think that even if the story had been completely plotless, or plot-ful bot boring, I would have kept reading just because I thought Travis’s dry voice and sense of humor were so special. Young adult books with male protagonists are few and far between, and books with characters as interesting and complex as Travis are even more unusual. I honestly don’t think I’ve read anything like this book before. I think the fact that the subject was being in the military and PTSD probably had something to do with that, but I think Travis’s uniqueness as a character had a lot to do with it as well.

This book was actually nearly flawless, in my opinion, and I’m not sure if some of the things I would change or want more of were because the book itself was lacking or if I just wanted to know everything. I wish Doller had spent a little more time on Travis’s sexual relationship with Paige, because that seemed like it was a little more complicated than casual sex. I think Travis would have had more feelings about that relationship than Doller explored in the book, and I doubt I’m the only reader who wondered why he continued a sexual relationship with Paige despite his being in love with Harper and Paige dating his brother Ryan. Something else I noticed is that whenever a sex scene was about to happen, Doller basically  went to black and then brought the lights up again when it was over. Something I’d like to see more of in YA lit is attention to what actually happens during sex, but that’s really the only thing I felt was missing.

The romance between Travis and Harper was also probably one of the sweetest I’ve read all year. I don’t know why, but for some reason their sensitivity and tentitivity towards each other really touched me. It just seemed so genuine and real, and you couldn’t help but root for Travis even when he was being an idiot.

I found Travis’s story of loss and redemption extremely moving, and his is a very special story I think anyone and everyone ought to read. Trish Doller is definitely an author to watch out for.

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