Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Something Like Normal

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
3.5/5 stars
Blomsbury, 2012
214 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I requested this book because I haven't read (or even seen) many YA books focusing on soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although I figured it would be an intense read and I'm more of a light reads girl, I also thought it would be worth it.

Well, I was certainly right that the parts dealing with main character Travis's military service would be great. Travis joined, not with a fervent desire to serve his country nor with a deep commitment for military work but more as an escape from his overbearing father and purposeless life. But he found a place where he survived and bonded with a group. As he returns home for a leave, he is processing the death of his best friend Charlie and preparing for a memorial service in honor of the man. There are flashbacks to Travis's experience and he suffers nightmares as one might expect. These sections were strong and engrossing for me.

What I didn't exactly like was all the time spent on relationships. First because I was expecting more about the military and second because there were some seriously messed-up relationships. Travis has very poor relationships with his overbearing father and jerky brother, both of which are touched on but not to the depth I would have liked. His relationship with his mother is also a little fractured but that receives more treatment.

Then there is Travis's romantic life with his ex-hookup Paige who is now with his brother and this one is seriously gross since she slips into his room with the brother just down the hall (repeatedly). Meanwhile there is Harper, whose reputation was ruined by Travis in eighth grade and who he constantly treats badly but who still hangs around him. So he's hooking up with Paige for lack of anything better while also pursuing Harper-dislike! I mean, I really liked Harper and I just wanted her to do better than Travis. Thankfully by the end of the book, he seems to have straightened out some and is on the way to (maybe) being worthy of her. Admittedly the cover does seem to hint more at this being a romancey book but lots of books have inaccurate covers so that doesn't necessarily mean much.

Warning: Language and sexual content make me recommend this for the more mature reader. Explicit violence is pretty minimal (a PG-13 movie would have way more).

Overall: If you can get over the ickiness of Travis's love life, there is some great stuff in here and I'm definitely hopeful of receiving a YA with more focus on the military life in the future.


  1. Oh my wow, all of the relationships in this book sound so complicated LOL! Usually that's the strong point in a book for me -- having good, not-so-simple relationships -- but only when they're handled with depth and care. Still, even though it's not the most prominent part of the book, I'm really intrigued by the military aspect! :)

    Awesome honest review, B! We really do need more military books, don't we? LOL x) <3

  2. I thought this was going to be a good one. Sorry to hear that it is disappointing because of the relationships. If I remember correctly there is another YA release this year that deals with someone coming home from the military but the name escapes me at the moment. Maybe that one will be better.

  3. It's While He Was Away by Karen Schreck and I guess it is about the girl left behind rather than the guy who is in Iraq. Oops.

    1. Thanks for pointing that one out to me; I think I've seen it around and it might be worth a read any way-I'm sure there is some stuff about the military.

  4. I agree it was nice to see a book with a military focus.
    I enjoyed the romance and actually admired Harper because she accepted Travis the way he was, though like you, I am glad that he matured some and came around. Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  5. I guess I'm like Brandi, I liked that Harper knew how he was and accepted him. I believe he knew what he did was wrong and that he is changed. It's just hard to be a guy and say no when someone climbs into bed with you, I guess. Especially after not having contact like that in so long. I really loved this book and I'm glad you mostly enjoyed it anyway.

  6. It started off sounding good, but I'm not sure about the romance aspect. Seems like he was sort of a jerk; probably due to his environment, but still. I think you're right, it seems there is a bit of disconnect between the cover and how the story sounds. Makes it look really sweet but apparently it wasn't like that at all! Might still check this one out anyway though.

  7. I loved this book! I thought Travis was a funny, normal guy whose dealing with a lot of crap. I can't wait to read more from this author! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Like Kristina, I also loved Something Like Normal and the fact that the relationships were messy and complicated, much like in real life. I am glad though that you are honest about how you feel with a book, it's nice to know that I am never being BSed when I go to your blog. :-)

    1. Thank you April! That means a lot to me coming from you because you're definitely a role model for writing honest reviews that explain why a book does or doesn't work.


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