Something Like Normal (by Trish Doller)

4 01 2013

sthlikenormalTrish Doller’s 2012 debut Something Like Normal deals with a pretty sensitive issue: a young Marine (19 years old) who’s just got back from his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. Travis may have left Afghanistan physically in one piece, he’s definitely suffering mentally – from PTSD – after he witnessed his best friend getting killed. Coming back home, though, has never felt so alien to Travis: his ex-girlfriend has hooked up with his brother Ryan who’s pretty much also confiscated his car; his father still thinks he’s worthless and it seems that his parents’ marriage is going the way of the dinosaur too. Mixed in with dealing with the effects that Charlie’s death has on him – Travis sees Charlie all through the book – and his changing family dynamics, is a romance, that of Travis and Harper, the girl he pretty much humiliated when they were both 14.

Something Like Normal is well written, and Doller definitely has the voice of Travis down. It sounds honest, a little raw, but always realistic. So no qualms about Doller’s ability to write a decent character. There’s nothing really wrong with Something Like Normal. The only pity is that it’s not really a book that sticks… The romance is not exactly a necessary aspect of the novel, to be honest. It’s also the weakest element of this book, with Harper being a fairly unbelievable love interest (what girl would hook up with a guy who pretty much ruined her reputation, resulting in her being called a slut by everyone in town since she was 14?). In fact it sort of distracts of the real highlight of this book : the way a young soldier like Travis deals with PTSD, the guilt and the grief he feels.

The fact that lots of elements are sort of touched upon but not really explored to the full is due to the brevity of this novel. Although Something like Normal is a decent enough debut, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that with a bit more attention and fleshing out, it could have been so much more.

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