Review: Something Like Normal – Trish Doller

Synopsis From Goodreads.
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 feel like saying anything negative about this book is the equivalent of kicking a puppy. Well, I guess I’m going to be the puppy-kicker of the blogging world*.
Wait, let me clarify. It’s not as if I didn’t like this book, because I did but I just wanted to like it a lot more.

Do you want to good news or the bad news?
I don’t see why anyone would ever say good news first because you’re all happy and joyful and then BAM, bad news. And then you’re sad.
And no one wants to be sad.

So the bad news- I don’t get why this book had to be a love story.

I like a kissing book as much as the next person, but I didn’t want this book to be a kissing book. And the more I think about it, the more I think that it actually was. But one of the better ones, you know? I liked the relationship between Harper and Travis and if this was any other YA book I would have been smitten because both characters were realistic and I could actually see why they were attracted to each other. Unfortunately, I felt it was a bit rushed and, in context with the rest of the story, it did seem to be kind of forced. Like I said, in any other book, I would have praised the love interest because, as a regular YA reader, I have often been acquainted with the most ridiculous love stories… but I wanted more from this. Everything else was spot on and, I’ll talk about this more later when I’m praising and gushing and high-fiving but I honestly I think that Travis was such a rich character that he could have held this book on his own.
I think my main problem was that I didn’t really connect with Harper. I mean she was OK but I felt like I hardly knew her. In comparison to Travis, his mum and his Marines she very much faded into the back ground.

I just can’t help but think that this book would have been infinitely better if it had dealt solely with Travis’ relationship with his fellow Marines, his parents and his brother, the latter being something that I desperately wanted. I mean, talk about conflicting and angsty and difficult emotions! I just felt a lot of the relationships, ones that would really have allowed Ms Doller to write some really intense and difficult emotions (and it’s obvious this is one of her major talents) were over looked for a pretty girl in a band t-shirt.

Alright, anyway… now the good news.

I absolutely adored the relationship between Travis and his fellow Marines. I loved their banter and how vile they were with each other. They’re not always brave. They fight over who gets the lad’s mags first but they are so completely connected mentally, it was wonderful. I think if you’re going to write a book about a subject that’s so current and close to a lot of people’s hearts across the whole world, you really need to know what you’re talking about. I loved how it wasn’t glamorised and things were portrayed how they are. This book is impeccably researched and I wasn’t surprised at all to see that about 80% of the acknowledgments are to Marines.
However, my favourite part of this book (and the part that made me have to put it down because I didn’t want to weep in public) was the relationship between Travis and his mum. I loved the way Travis looked after his mum but also wanted to be looked after to. He was big tough guy Marine with issues but his mum was his first port of call. Isn’t that glorious? I just loved it. It felt honest and refreshing to have a mother-son relationship that…well, actually existed, you know? It wasn’t the neatest relationship in the world, lots of messy emotions, but I think (with maybe the exception of one that I’m not going to talk about because of spoilers and my sadness) it was my favourite.
I always seem to chat on about how much I want parents to get a look in in YA books and I got two for the price of one in this one. Charlie’s mums were just as brilliant- full of humour, life and heaps of sadness. I had to put my Kindle down a few times to stop me embarrassing myself on the train.

I have to admit that this book was a little disappointing, but even so it’s a really great debut and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out to see what else Ms Doller writes. Even though it didn’t affect me as much as I wanted it to, I’d still wholeheartedly recommend it for people who want an intelligent and compelling contemporary.

*No puppies were kicked in the writing of this review. I promise.

4 thoughts on “Review: Something Like Normal – Trish Doller

  1. I knew that all the hype for this book couldn’t be true, I’ve been burned before so I am actually glad to see your review, Jo, because all 5 star reviews can lead to disappointment.

    I plan on reading this soon and I’m going to try and go into it with no/low expectations and I can’t wait to meet Travis.

    • Thanks Mandee!
      I hope you do read this, I do recommend it. Travis is absolutely wonderful.

      I was worried about posting this review because I know a lot of people loved this book and they should, but I did have a few problems with it. I really hope they didn’t put anyone off because this book deserves to be read.

      I’d be really interested to hear what you think about it. :)

  2. Dearest Puppy Kicker,

    Your review is fantastic. In fact, I think it helped me go into the book with a better mindset knowing that it would be a kissing book, rather than be disappointed to find out later. Harper still disappointed me, but I really liked Travis and the other characters. I think you’d really like Generation Kill. Here’s a gif for your awesomeness:

    Love, Mag

    PS. I’m sending you a REAL letter soon! The Joy of the Envelope must live on!!

    • Oh my goodness! YAY FOR REAL LETTERS. I actually have something I need to send you but I keep forgetting because I’m an awful human being. But it’ll get to you eventually… might be a little dated though.

      Anyway, this book, I’m glad you liked my review my dear. I know exactly what you mean- Travis and the others were wonderful, weren’t they? I’ve never seen Generation Kill but that guy is well fit. I think. I’ll look at it again and make an INFORMED and SCIENTIFIC decision.

      Lots of love,
      The Puppy Kicker.

      (it’s Jo, bytheby)

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