Thursday, 12 July 2012
Review: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Released: 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.
I read Something Like Normal after hearing amazing things about it. While I liked it and read it really quickly, I don't think it quite lived up to the hype surrounding it. It's a good contemporary read with certain elements I hadn't encountered before, but it didn't have a huge impact on me.
Main character Travis Stephenson is a nineteen-year-old marine who's home after his first year of active duty, and he's having a hard time readjusting to normality after witnessing the horrors of Afghanistan. He has nightmares, he has difficulty opening up to people and the one place he truly feels at home is the place that's most dangerous for him. If you want to read about a layered, complicated teenage boy, Travis is definitely him.
I don't seem to read many YA books told from a male perspective, so Something Like Normal was a nice change of pace for me. I liked being inside Travis's head and hearing his thoughts on girls, sex and other guy stuff, and I also really liked his banter with his friends. Everything he's been through has changed him as a person and now he's trying to find something that resembles normal.
Travis's relationship with Harper develops nicely and I believed in it for the most part. It does come across as slightly rushed, but that could be due to the shorter page count. I liked Harper and she was good for Travis, though I would have liked a bit more romantic build-up and more information about her background and home life.
Something Like Normal is the first YA book I've ever read that is about the war in Afghanistan. I used to stay away from them before because it was never something I wanted to read about, but reading about Travis has made me want to seek out similar stories. It's a fascinating story to tell, and that's what Trish Doller does best. You can tell she's researched the war and spoken to people about it, and that shines through in her excellent writing.
As far as contemporary YA novels go, Something Like Normal is a good one worth a read. I would have liked a longer page count allowing the characters to develop a bit more, but that's really my only big problem. I felt like there was still more story to be told, especially Travis and Harper's journey to a future together. Still, two-hundred and twenty-four pages of Travis is nothing to complain about!