Title: Something Like Normal
Author: Trish Doller
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Genre: Romance, Young Adult, Contemporary
Published: 19th June 2012 by Bloomsbury
Format Read: Hardcover, 224 pages
Synopsis: “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.” (Taken from Goodreads)
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This novel was an emotional rollercoaster ride, to say the least. It follows the character Travis, who is returning home after fighting in Afghanistan. During his time away as a Marine, he lost one of his best friends and essentially, this is a novel about him facing the effects of post-traumatic stress. Doller has written a beautiful novel with a character that is so realistic I could almost imagine him as someone I could potentially pass on the streets. However, this isn’t just a novel about the effects of PTS, but a romance.
In the year and a half that Travis has been away, things back at home have changed. He’s lost his girlfriend and his car to his younger brother, his parents are getting divorced and he’s finding it hard to fit in with his old group of friends. With all the new experiences he’s had, he’s finding it hard to imagine himself being a part of the old dynamics back home. After leaving a party early one night, Travis ends up at a bar where he tries to pick up girl. Harper’s first reaction was to punch Travis, and with him being quite drunk at the time, he fails to dodge her and earns himself a black eye. My first reaction to Harper was basically, “whoa, you go girl!” – and as more of Travis and Harper’s backstories are revealed, I began to understand why she had such a strong reaction to someone picking her up at a bar.
The romance (while you knew was going to happen), was quite subtle and moved along in a nice pace. It was quite a bold move Doller made when she allowed Travis to continue hooking up with his ex (and brother’s current girlfriend), but I thought this created a good distinction between the old Travis and the new one (or the one he’s learning to be with Harper). These little juxtapositions can be seen through small changes within his familial dynamic as well. Once afraid of his father, Travis and his mother both learn to stand up to him by the end of the novel. I was very, very thankful for the final decision that his mother made regarding her marriage, because it’s such an important message to send to girls who are reading this novel. Never stay in a broken relationship just because you’re fearful of change – change can be good!
Suffice to say, I did shed a few tears towards the end of the novel. I was quite reluctant to let all these characters go, but I knew they would be heading towards a better path. Doller has created a wonderful story that would resonate with many of its readers, and I encourage you to pick up this book because it will change your perspectives in some areas. If you’re looking for a short contemporary romance, give this book a try!
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.