Something like Normal

Something like Normal - Trish Doller 5 stars/5 stars
Review here:…ng-like-normal

5 stars/5 stars

This book is suffering from a bad blurb and poor marketing. It sounds like any other quasi-cheesy, romance in the "new adult" genre that's become so popular in the last year or so. Reading the synopsis, you think, okay its about a dude that has a bunch of personal problems and war related angst and through love, he finds redemption. I guess that is sort of what it's about-- but it's much better than all that. So having the synopsis read this way is really selling it short.

The love story is only a part of it- and not the most important part.

Foolishly, I let the blurb- and frankly- the cover art, put me off this book for a long time. I didn't want to read another book about all the horrible things that war is doing to America's young people in Afghanistan and Iraq- I read fiction to ESCAPE, not get mired down in horrors of reality.

That being said, I should have just downloaded the sample when Something Like Normal appeared again, and again on lists of best YA books, on different goodreads lists, all year. Amazon didn't let me escape it either, they kept recommending it, over and over again.

So, finally, I gave in and read the first sample page on kindle .

Travis had me by page two, because he's real. And he doesn't do any of the irritating things that most males do in female written romance novels. It was also clear from page two, that this is NOT a romance novel. It's a novel about life before, during, and after war.

Ms. Doller got Travis. His voice was impressively done. She's obviously did her research on the Marine Corps, the war in Afghanistan, and PTSD. Her acknowledgements credit a lot of different military personnel, a book on the war, and several other sources, so she seems to have gotten it right. What is important is that it feels right, without being overdone and without straying into "anything for love of God or country" territory, which is the tendency of many books with military romantic heros.

Mostly importantly, Travis is a kid. A kid, who made a split-second decision to join the Marines, and changed his life forever. He can't put things back the way they were before that decision, and he's not even sure he wants to. All he knows is that everything is different now and he's not quite sure what to do, or how to act. We catch him on a four week leave before he has to go back to Camp LeJeune and then eventually, back to Afghanistan for another tour. So, his demons are in his face and not going anywhere. This book had me crying at least three times: as he struggles to cope with his best friend's death, his own guilt over the event, and how to fit the pieces of his life back together as he continues moving forward.

In addition to Travis, Ms. Doller gives us a glimpse into the lives of three other Marines serving in Travis's company: Kevlar, Moss and Charlie (his now deceased best friend). These glimpses are some of the most poignant and thought provoking moments in the book. How do you move forward when what's behind you is something so ugly? We see through these boys that the reactions are all over the map.

And last, of course, there is a romance here. Travis and Harper fall in love. Harper provides strength when Travis needs it most, but the book avoids the common, soul-sucking, maudlin romantic traps. There's none of them gazing adoringly into each others' eyes, or searing each other with the fire of each others' touch. Harper is as real as Travis. A girl that I'd like to hang out with and get to know.

We don't get that fairy tale ending that most books in this genre have. Our characters don't ride off, hand in hand into the sunset to live happily ever after. Life moves forward and so do Travis and Harper. It's just reality: sweet, simple and hopeful.