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Monday, December 2, 2013

My Thoughts: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

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.

Where to start. I decided to read Trish Doller's debut Something Like Normal soon after her second novel came out and I couldn't get my hands on it. I had been seeing a lot of praise for this new author and I wanted in on the experience. I had initially thought that I would never read Something Like Normal because of it's militaristic themes- it just wasn't something I was interested in- which we'll get to in a bit. But... almost everyone who had read this book had good things to say about it, so I gave it a go.

Let me begin by saying that I may step on some toes with this review. I am going to share my opinions and it is just that- my opinion. Edit: This review has been sitting here for a while and I was never sure if I was going to share it. I guess if you are reading this, I decided to share it.

As I mentioned before, I had originally thought that I would never read this book because of it's military setting. The protagonist- Travis- is a soldier on leave from the navy. I generally don't like the attitude that North American  media outlets take when it comes to the military. There is extreme reverence of those in the military and it makes me SO uncomfortable. I do not believe that I am free because people chose/are choosing to serve in the military- to me this is silly.  So, because I was believing that this is what I was going to get in Something Like Normal made a little grumpy at it. But Doller surprised me with her book and I am very appreciative about it.

Tavis has just spent a year serving in the navy and is home on a month long leave before receiving his next assignment. He has spent the last several months in Afghanistan, and survived a number of traumatic events while there. One of them being the death of his closes friend. So naturally Travis is dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. Except: when he gets home, his parents' relationship is on the rocks and his younger brother is dating his girlfriend. What a wonderful home coming.

What I found really interesting about Something Like Normal was how not perfect Travis was. He wasn't the picture perfect soldier coming home. He made some really dumb decisions and said some ridiculous things and sometimes his logic was lacking. I liked that. I also found it really interesting how unpatriotic he was. There was no "God Bless America" coming out of him. He didn't feel like it was his American Duty to serve in the navy. Well that was not the sense I got from the story. This was not something I had anticipated.

One of the things that often upsets me about the military and soldiers who return after serving, is how down playing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is. PTDS is not often talked about. Men don't like to admit that they are struggling with it. There is this stigma attached to it and it is seen as a weakness. Trish Doller does not let that happen in this book. Travis's mom is pretty awesome and is incredibly supportive of her son and his vocation in the navy. She's a totally navy mom. She also knows something is going on with her son and takes him to talk to someone when he feels overwhelmed. And she doesn't judge him for that.

I suppose I should talk about the relationship Travis has with Harper. And while it was sweet and I liked that she didn't coddle him and she doesn't censor things when she's talking to him. However, for me, this romantic relationship wasn't the most impressive thing for me in this book. There were a bunch of other amazing interactions between Travis and the various characters.

Trish Doller wrote a great book. Her story telling was authentic and it was bias. I could never tell whether she was for the military or against the military, and as a reader who isn't sure about novels about the military this was something I was very grateful for.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I am glad that I caved to peer pressure and read it. Now please oh please can I get my hands on Where the Stars Still Shine.

~Happy Reading Everyone!


  1. I appreciate your opinion and it's actually given me something to think about. I also think it's cool that this book isn't preachy one way or another. It sounds like a really interesting and thoughtful story.

  2. Yeah... I feel the same about military pride... so it's good to hear the author chose not to go that route with this one. I know I would appreciate that she chose not to be preachy about it. It's great that this one was a pleasant surprise for you! And I'm glad you decided to post this review.

  3. I hadn't read this book but I've heard such praises!! The militaristic element does create a kind of barrier between me and story, I find it very hard to relate and identify myself with an army...? Is that it? XD But Travis is one fun character and I wish to get to know him sometime soon!

    Alicia @ Summer Next Top Story


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