Something Like Normal by Trish Doller Review – Teen Soldier Returns from War

December 10, 2013 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 2 stars, Books, Reviews

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller Review – Teen Soldier Returns from WarSomething Like Normal by Trish Doller
Published by Bloomsbury Australia on June 19, 2012
Source: Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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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.

Something Like Normal is about a teenage soldier who returns home to visit after serving as a Marine in Afghanistan. After living life constantly on the look out for threats, defending himself against the Taliban, and losing his best friend, Travis finds being at home to be completely surreal. He’s still on edge and gets nightmares every night, and the only solace he finds is in a girl named Harper, who he tormented in middle school.

The story is an incredibly relevant one, as it details the accounts of what soldiers may feel when they leave Afghanistan. Travis has post traumatic stress disorder, as he is coping with the lost of his best friend. He’s incredibly on edge and unable to relax, and isn’t in the right frame of mind as he sleeps with his ex-girlfriend Paige – who is his brother’s current girlfriend. His life is complicated as his family are going through issues, his friends don’t understand what he’s been going through and his brother pretty much stole his girlfriend.

The weird dynamic between Travis, Paige and Ryan really put me off Travis as a character. After he was deployed to Afghanistan, Paige dumped him for his brother Ryan, which wasn’t a surprise because “we cheated on each other all the time“. When he comes home, Paige cheats on Ryan consistently by sneaking in and sleeping with Travis, multiple times. Travis knows how much Ryan likes Paige, but he does it anyway because it’s available, he hasn’t had sex in a while, and she’s there. He doesn’t think about how it would hurt his brother, or even Harper, the girl that he’s been seeing. The worse thing is that it runs in the family, because his dad is having an affair as well.

I can’t really root for a guy who is a cheater, especially when his brother is collateral damage. I know sex happens in high school, but the amount of times Travis and his friends talked about it, they just sounded like those douchebags in school that did it all the time and hurt a lot of people. What Travis did to Harper is really mean as well, he started a rumour that he was a slut after making out with her and now she has a reputation. I think Harper fell for his advances a little too easily, and the poor girl has suffered for years from Travis’s rumours.

At it’s short length and complexity, I think Something Like Normal may have benefited from being a longer book. The author tries to pack a punch in the emotional department as she covers Travis’s PTSD, the beginnings of a romance and recovering from his trauma, but there wasn’t really enough for me to connect with, especially with such an unlikable character. I’m confused by all the positive ratings on Goodreads, as I wouldn’t recommend it to others. It tried to cover too many things at once and was ultimately forgettable.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me a review copy of this book.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5


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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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35 responses to “Something Like Normal by Trish Doller Review – Teen Soldier Returns from War

  1. Based on the raving reviews last year, I bought the book but I haven't read it yet. I guess I would have to read it to see if I'd find Travis repulsive but I'd definitely lower my expectation now that I've read your review. Thanks for sharing!
    Henrietta recently posted…I Hunt Killers – Barry LygaMy Profile

  2. Awww shucks! I just read a super awesome contemporary military themed romance and I gave it 5 stars (Fighting Redemption by Kate McCarthy). When I saw "marines" and "military" i was curious if this is any good because I enjoyed the last one I read. Travis does sound like a major jerk and I know some readers like plotlines like this but for the life of me I don't get how this can be possibly enjoyable not unless I'm Travis.
    Braine Talk Supe recently posted…Braine Reviews: Galilee Rising by Jennifer HarlowMy Profile

    • Interesting, the best military romance I've ever read is The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simmons. This one though, I just couldn't connect with Travis. HAha, hilarious how you said that he enjoys himself XD although I feel for him with the PTSD and everything. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Oh wow, this is like one of the first negative reviews I've come across for this book and so glad I did because I LOATHE cheating and cannot condone it so I'm really surprised at some of the people who raved about it now to be honest…hmm. I have this on my kindle because of those raves so I'm sure I'll get to it eventually but so not enthusiastic about it now…Great review hon!
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  4. Cheating is not good, but sometimes, if the characters use that to grow, I can stomach reading about it. Having a girl 'share' two brothers is pretty icky, and if Travis is being cavalier about the whole thing is not something I think I'd would like to read about.

    Great review, Jeann, it's always nice to read both of the pros and the cons about a story. I actually enjoy stories about army-veterans, but I don't see why cheating had to be a big part of this one.
    Lexxie @ (un)Convent recently posted…Review: The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3) – Scott LynchMy Profile

  5. Cheating is never something I can deal with, and this one sounds like it tries to grabble with too much content in too little space. That just won't work for me! Ooof. Well, thank you so much for your honest review, Jeann! I don't think this one is for me.

  6. Great review, Jeann!

    I wouldn't be able to get behind a character that sounds as much of a douche as Travis does in here, no matter how much PTSD he's suffering… Thanks for the warning, I plan to stay away from it now, since it sounded very interesting by reading the blurb only.
    Pili recently posted…2014 Review Pile Reading Challenge!!My Profile

  7. NO, just NO! I just read an Erotica last Sunday with the male lead cheating on his girlfriend and I just couldn't stand it. I may forgive some types of cheating but this one, JUST NOPE! How can Travis stand to sleep with his girlfriend who dumped him after he went to Afghanistan? And worst, how could he stand the guilt of knowing that he will hurt his brother in the end? Despite these questions though, I am interested to know if Doller was able to redeem this SOB Travis in the end.

    If only things were done differently, I am pretty sure that this book would really make a powerful read.
    Charlotte recently posted…Book Review: ScarletMy Profile

    • I know, it's worse when you read it from their perspective and they're just so casual about it! The whole dynamic between the brothers and the girl was just annoying. He never redeemed himself for me because of his personal decisions.

  8. Sounds like an excuse for a sex fest. I have trouble reading anything where characters are constantly unfaithful just for the sake of getting it on. The storyline about dealing with PTSD through the eyes of a returning serviceman would have have made for an emotional read, but it sounds as though it's been ruined by wanker characters and the lack of morals.
    Kelly @ Diva Bookner recently posted…Wild Cards By Simone ElkelesMy Profile

    • Yeah, it had potential and I know a lot of people loved it because it was different, but yeah the cheating just wasn't on. Thanks about the review format, I've been wanting to change it for a while but it just never worked out!

  9. Yeah I've heard some people say the same thing (while others who loved it to bits) and I really do NOT like a cheater so this book is probably not for me. I'd just end up getting all worked up.

    Great Review Jeann! 🙂

  10. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this more 🙁 I haven't read it myself, but I've heard good things about it. You point out some relevant things – I don't like cheaters either and I think it would be an issue for me. So yeah, I think I might skip this one…
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  11. This is actually quite refreshing to hear because SO many people have said they loved Something Like Normal and that Trish is a great author etc. I haven't read it, but I did read her novel Where The Stars Still Shine and I had the same kind of reaction to that which you seemed to have to this – I felt like I didn't connect with any of the characters or the story as a whole. A lot of people told me not to give up hope on Trish and try Something Like Normal, because that was amazing. But your review has made me think otherwise – I think I'll pass on this and give Trish's books a miss from now on, as it seems she's an author that I just can't click with!
    Allie @ Little Birdi recently posted…* 25 Days of Book Boyfriends! – Adam {Shatter Me} *My Profile

    • I know right, lots of people on Goodreads love it, but for some reason I just don't see it. I don't think I'll read her other book either, it doesn't appeal after this one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Allie!

  12. I was thinking this one looked awesome, but now I'm not so sure. Eh. Army stuff really intrigues me. And anything that deals with PTSD (that does it well) is always super emotionally engaging for me. Buuut, I'm NEVER a fan of the narrator being a jerk. It always ticks me off. I think I'll leave this one in the "maybe" pile.