Friday, June 15, 2012

ARC Review: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: June 19th, 2012

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.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I have admit, I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked up this book.  I thought I was going to get the standard YA Contemporary Romance; I could not have been more wrong!  This book was so far beyond most of the books it shares a genre with.  First off, it was so very eye opening.  As a civilian, I tend to go about my life not paying an inordinate amount of mind to our servicemen and and women;  I donate supplies for care packages, I buy soldiers drinks in airport bars, I pray for their safety and for their families' peace, but I never really stop to consider how they live when they are overseas, or what they deal with when they come back.  This book puts all of that in your face, and it really sheds a new light on just how grateful we should be for their service.

Another thing that struck me about this book is the way the characters are written.  There is not a perfect one in the bunch, but they are all apologetically human; so real.  Travis, Charlie, Kevlar...those boys could be anyone's brother or son.  I laughed at the crude way the guys spoke to one another, but I also got tears in my eyes when the story told of their bond that was even tighter than blood.  Charlie's memorial service slayed me.  Travis's nightmares, panic attacks, and hallucinations of his dead friend made me want to reach into the book and hug him. Trish Doller  nailed the feelings that go with being through something so awful that you are never quite the same again, but she was able to insert levity in the right places that this book ended up not being a total downer.

As for the romance... It was very, very well done.  Harper is just the kind of girl you want to see a guy like Travis with (and Ryan and Paige TOTALLY deserve each other!).  I liked that Travis and Harper had to kind of grow on one another and that she had to forgive him of past wrongs- and that it didn't happen instantly.  I also loved how understanding and compassionate she was toward him, even when she wasn't exactly pleased with him.  Their romance was sweet and believable, and it warmed my heart to know that they had each other.

Much to my surprise, I truly enjoyed this book.  From now on, I will look at our military personnel with not only respect and admiration, but with compassion and a grateful heart; these people have taken the burden of seeing and doing things that no person would ever want to, so that we civilians can continue living our lives in ignorance.  Travis's story, although fictional, touched me.  This book is a rare gem because it makes the reader look within; I grew as a person because of it.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ++

Grade Level Recommendation:  This is definitely a high school and up read.  There is lots of sex, drinking, and vulgar language.  There are also some rather graphic descriptions of war violence.  I think this is a "must read for EVERYONE" over a certain age though.  Every American should read it!  Grades 9 and up (ages 14+).


  1. This book hasn't been high on my TBR list, but I might have to bump it up thanks to this review!! Happy reading :)

  2. Awesome review. This sounds like the author did a really good job in portraying life after service. It sounds like a great read. It wasn't high up on my list either but I might reconsider.

  3. You are right about the characters. I didn't really think about that, other than the main character, but they are all extremely authentic. I enjoyed this on too. I would recommend this to all teens, as well as adults. Great thoughts!


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