Length: 225 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children
Source: Loaned by a friend
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.
Here’s what I thought:
This book kind of snuck up on me and made me read it. First, I’d read a positive review of it from a friend on goodreads, and then completely by coincidence a different friend loaned it to me on kindle. I really had no choice but to see what this book had to say that was so important.
To begin with, the cover is kind of annoying. I generally despise romance novel covers because they say next to nothing about what’s going on in the book. Sure, there may be heaving bosoms and man-titty (thank you, Smart Bitches) but generally speaking there’s a bit more to the story than that, and usually it’s not actually the overriding feature of the book.
In the case of Something Like Normal, there is a sweet relationship that develops over the course of the book, but that’s not really what the book’s about. It’s about a boy, Travis, who joins the Marines, fights in Afghanistan, and has returned home on his first leave. Of course, he finds that he has changed, but his experiences have also affected how he sees and interacts with other people.
I believe the book is marketed as young adult, and if so I found it to be really well done. I don’t say that about many books for this age group, as many YA authors tend to romanticize adolescence, and this book never does that. Instead, its young characters are convincingly portrayed, and the main character of Travis is a perfect example. It takes a while to warm up to him, as he can be a bit of jerk at times. But he’s also vulnerable, and watching him come to terms with the after-effects of his war experiences is touching and so sad.
The love story is lightly done, and I liked that even though we see the typical hormone-fueled side of a teenage boy, we also see how Travis grows emotionally through having a genuine relationship with Harper, as opposed to what he had with his high school girlfriend, Paige. I also thought the ending was very appropriate given their age and situations.
I thoroughly enjoyed Something Like Normal and would recommend it to any fans of well-done YA romance or anyone interested in the experiences of soldiers coming home from war.
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