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Author: Trish Doller
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
I feel kind of horrible after reading Something Like Normal. Before you go jumping to conclusions, this was a great book…no, a GREAT book. But I have to admit, I’ve never given much thought to the soldiers fighting overseas or what they might be dealing with when they come home. I’ve always been on the fence when it comes to the wars we fight abroad, and though I can see the reasons for and against these wars, I’ve never really been okay with our brothers, sons, and husbands (okay, and sisters, daughters, and wives, too…but this book is told from the male perspective) going to other countries to fight their battles for them. It makes me sad to think of the lives lost with nothing to show for it, not really, and so after awhile, I stopped thinking about it.
But while reading Something Like Normal, I couldn’t help but think about it. When I was preparing to graduate from high school, I seriously considered going into the Air Force. It wasn’t out of some patriotic sense of duty, though. No, it was for pure personal gain: I wanted to be an astronaut. (Still do, but that dream is so far off now that it’s more of a fantasy than anything else.) Once I expressed interest, that recruiter was after me. And yet it never went any further. But my point is this: I can’t be all Judgey-Mcjudgerson when I almost made the same decision. Our soldiers all had their own personal reasons for joining up, and they enlisted of their own accord.
In Something Like Normal, Travis joins the Marines because college wasn’t the road for him and he would’ve done anything to escape the scrutiny of his over-bearing ex-NFL father. Can’t say I blame him there. I really enjoyed Travis’s point-of-view. The male perspective is always a little iffy for me, especially when written by a female, but I think Travis was every bit a guys’ guy. He reminded me a bit of my husband, actually. Travis could shoot-the-sh!t with his friends, but he could also be tender and sweet when it came to Harper.
After what he did to Harper back in middle school, I can’t believe she’d give him the time of day. And, at first, she won’t. But I think it’s obvious to everyone that Travis is a changed man after having served in Afghanistan for a year and witnessing the death of his best friend. But Harper gets to see the real Travis. For some reason, he finds himself completely exposed when she’s around, and it hurts him that she’s seen him at his weakest, but it’s also okay. It forms a bond between them that remedies years of pain. I love how slowly their romance develops and how genuine it is.
I love a book that covers all emotions on the spectrum. I cried for Charlie and for his mother’s loss. I cringed when Travis slipped back into old habits and wreaked havoc not only on his budding relationship with Harper but also on his relationship with his brother, which was already on shaky ground. I applauded his chivalry when it came to defending his own mother. And there were plenty of moments where I laughed out loud and got weird looks from casual observers. But by the end, I was a happy reader.
No happily ever after here – because who really gets that in real life? – but a solid ending with a good dose of hopefulness is what you’re left with. I’m definitely not complaining. I had heard this book was good, but I thought I’d see for myself. And I am happy to report that it was a very fun, entertaining read. Something Like Normal is a great debut novel, one that I wasn’t expecting but that I’m very happy I gave a chance.Book-A-Likes: I'm new to contemporaries, so I'm not really sure what to compare this one to...maybe The Perks of Being a Wallflower because of the issues being dealt with.