Author: Trish Doller
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: June, 19, 2012
Pages: 224, 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. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.
Something Like Normal is a fantastic depiction of a soldier’s life after war while suffering from PTSD. Travis has just returned home after serving in Afghanistan and is struggling to adapt to his old life, which now seems so unfamiliar, and the death of his army friend Charlie, which he feels somewhat responsible for. The same man that left for the army is not the same man that returned. The one that returned doesn’t know where he fits in anymore, or what life holds for him.
I was completely taken aback by Travis’ recounts of war and life in the army. But what really brought the message home was how it was told in comparison to the easy comforts of his home life. He no longer saw the home he left in the same way. His bed now seemed too soft. Loud noises put him on instant alert. Things that had once seemed important - parties, clothes, girls, cars - were somewhat trivial now. Travis’ hardest adjustment - and the focus of the story - was coming back alive when his friend Charlie didn’t. At night, he often relived Charlie’s death, or dreamt of his own. He started seeing Charlie in strangers, or through hallucinations. He knew he wasn’t really there, but that didn’t make it any easier to let go. He missed his friend and he wished he could take his place.The story peaks when Travis attends Charlies funeral and delivers a heartfelt speech about his dear friend. But it was really Charlies family and Harper that helped him move on and I loved his journey to get to and past that point.
I loved getting this glimpse of PTSD and seeing the impact that war has on those that come home. And for another perspective, Trish Doller incorporates the stories of some of Travis’ army buddies who coped in different ways. She tells a very complete and thorough story. But perhaps what I loved most was the relationship Travis built with Harper, who is exactly what he seemed to need at the moment. She was patient, understanding, and compassionate. She helped him find a new normal and sense of peace. Their romance was sweet but complemented rather than overshadowed the story. It was perfect.
And Travis’ story really touched me on a higher level. For those of us who are not closely impacted by war, it is easy to forget about those that are sacrificing so much for our freedom. But this story reminded me of their sacrifices and gave me a new appreciation and gratitude for our soldiers. Hearing about Travis' time spent overseas. The conditions that he had to endure. The war he had to fight. The friendships he made. And the soldiers he watched die. The suffering was heart-breaking but the little moments, the good moments, were so so great. My heart when out to Travis. To all our soldiers.
The entire book was just beautifully written and satisfying. I loved every detail that Trish Doller gave us. Travis's decision to enlist affected not only him, but his family and close friends too. Doller captures all of that. I just can’t say it often enough how much I loved this story.