Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Saturday, June 7, 2014

Plot Summary:
After returning from the war in Afghanistan, Travis is not happy about returning home. Not only does the civilian life terrify him, but he is haunted by the fact that his best friend, Charlie, was killed and he feels responsible. However, what should have been a time of recuperation and relaxation ended up being another battle he wasn't ready for. First of all, his brother, Ryan, not only took stole his girlfriend, Paige, he also has his car and his friends. In many ways, Ryan seems to take whatever Travis has because their father (a former NFL player) practically forced Travis to become a football play so he follow in his footsteps. However, all that attention turned to loathing because Travis had had enough and his father never forgave him. In fact, he joined the Marine Corps because he didn't want to go to college and he didn't want to be home either. Although his deployment was about him, he didn't realize the strain it put on their parents' marriage, which is why their are splitting up. His homecoming wasn't his idea (his commanding officer told him to take extra time to "get it together" after Charlie's death), this extra time off forces Travis to re-live the terrible memories and there are times where he actually sees Charlie wherever he goes. Travis didn't expect his return to be easy, he didn't count on Harper and her right hook. Travis' spirit may be broken, but, with a little patience, and a lot of love, he could actually find the right kind of "normal" he may need to heal and move on.

Critical Evaluation:
Trish Doller packs so much into this tiny book that I could not put this book down. This story is an amazing portrayal of the very issues that are plaguing young soldiers, especially when it comes to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and loss. I think what breaks my heart is that when these soldiers return home, they are expected to re-integrate into civilian life without a hitch, but that is rarely the truth. Travis' mom does what she can to make his homecoming special, but Travis is plagued with so much guilt and shame that it only adds insult to injury. I think what this story points out is that these men and women don't feel like heroes after what they have been through and would prefer to be treated like everyone else. As for the reintegration aspect, it sounds a lot easier than it is because some return so broken that their nightmares become reality. For Travis, his PTSD, which we don't learn about to later in the story, is literally tearing him apart. He doesn't want to talk about his tour and that puts a huge strain on the relationships he previously had. Not to mention, his family is falling apart and his own betrayed him for pathetic reasons so no wonder his condition is exacerbated. However, Harper, the girl whose reputation he destroys, provides him with the distraction and the opportunity to let of the past and move on with the future. Although this is an unconventional love story, this is a story of many service men and women who not only put their lives on the line to protect our freedom, but caught be tween two worlds where "normal" takes on a whole new meaning.

Information about the Author:
According to her website:
I've been a writer as long as I've been able to write, but I didn't make a conscious decision to "be" a writer until fairly recently. For that you should probably be thankful.

I was born in Germany, grew up in Ohio, went to college at Ohio State University, got married to someone really excellent, bounced from Maine to Michigan and back to Ohio for awhile. Now I live in Florida with my two mostly grown kids, two dogs, and a pirate. For real.

I've worked as a morning radio personality, a newspaper reporter, and spent all my summers in college working at an amusement park. There I gained valuable life skills, including counting money really fast, directing traffic, jumping off a moving train, and making cheese-on-a-stick. Also, I can still welcome you to Frontier Town. Ask me sometime.​

Teen War Stories, Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Something Like Normal:

Awards & Recognition:
  • Positive review from Kirkus
  • Positive review from Publisher's Weekly
  • Positive review from School Library Journal
  • Positive review from Voice of Youth Advocates

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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