September 19, 2012

How to Heal • Something Like Normal

Something Like Normal book cover
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Source: Borrowed from the library || Hardcover

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.

I read Something Like Normal and I'm going to preface this review by saying that there is nothing normal about this truly incredible book. Despite the fact that the novel was a little shorter than I expected, it managed to completely surpass any expectations I had for it. Trish Doller has written a story that's incredibly authentic and moving, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I absolutely adored Travis. There's something so potent to me about seeing a guy so heartbroken and hurting so bad, all while dealing with the burdens of PTSD from going to war and the pressure his father puts on him. There's was something recognizable in his heartache, and something that I could personally sympathize with. More than once, I wanted to reach out to him and offer my love and consolation and hope and just help him feel better. This doesn't excuse any of his particularly rash actions (and ones that I don't approve of necessarily), but I can understand the reason they happened.

Harper is a great character as well, imbued with strength, quirkiness, and a strong sense of self. She seemed special right off the bat, and I just knew that she was meant to play an important role in Travis' life. It seemed pretty cool that they had a history (albeit not one that she or he would want to remember), and I like how they were able to move past their, well, past and into a different sort of relationship.

Apart from these two characters, I love how I felt completely submerged in Travis' story. It's interesting how detailed the entire experience of someone returning from a war and suffering from PTSD, as well as other problems, was shown in this book. It felt very authentic, down to the little things, and that definitely added a little something to the story.

Honestly, my initial reaction to the ending was what the heck? I thought it cut off a bit abruptly, but then I realized that I was actually kind of happy with it. It's enough for me to be able to imagine that Travis goes on to recover little by little, as well as get that happy ending he totally deserves.

Something Like Normal certainly packed a punch for a book that was shorter than I expected. It introduced me to a character that I loved and sympathized with, as well as showed me what it could be like for someone who suffered from PTSD after being involved in a war. Trish Doller did an incredible job bringing to life Travis' story for readers, and I can't wait to see more from her in the years to come!


  1. Amazing review, I loved Something Like Normal and it make's me so happy to see others enjoying it too!

    I adore Travis. He's hurting and though he can be rash and make silly decisions, I still cared for his character. More than once, I wanted to reach out to him and offer my love and consolation and hope and just help him feel better - I completely understand this as I wanted to do the exact thing! All I wanted to do was seep through the pages, console him and give him a big hug. Unfortuantely, that just isn't possible so I'm thankful for Harper. Not only was she a sweet, caring and gorgeous character but she was exactly what Travis needed.

    It was rather short, I wasn't expecting that, but I thought it wrapped up well considering I never wanted it to end ;)

  2. Wonderful review! I felt the same exact way when I read this book. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did but like you said.. the story and the characters just pull you in.

  3. Alexa, you've definitely reminded me why I LOVE Something Like Normal so much. I think that Doller has a real touch for humanizing her characters. She really brings them to life, and like you I just loved Travis and Harper.

    Lovely review. :-)

  4. This has been in my review pile for AGES! I'm sad the ending was a bit abrupt but am glad to hear it's still happy. Must read. Must read!

    Awesome review, hon!!!

  5. It sounds like the author did a brilliant job with the characters. Honestly, I don't think I've seen a single negative review for this book. I can't say it appealed to me much at first, but I'm on my way to changing my mind. :) Brilliant review, Alexa!

  6. Definitely agree that this one was well done. I really enjoyed it. Travis was a refreshing change of character - very different than the norm in YA. I loved that. His problems were relateable, but still different. :)

  7. Great review. This is a book that I've been eyeing for some time now as it seems that everyone in the blogosphere is talking about it. I may have to check it out -- the synopsis sounds wonderful! And I love that the characters are so well done. Definitely something I look for in a novel!

    Thanks for sharing, Alexa!

  8. I remember reading Ginger's review of this and thinking, dang that sounds phenomenal and now after reading your shinning review, I am thinking the same thing plus now I need to buy it like YESTERDAY lol! Seriously Alexa, your review was amazing and I cannot wait to add this one to my TBR pile.


Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)