Published by Bloomsbury Australia on June 19, 2012
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