Something Like Normal

Something Like Normal

4.1 47
by Trish Doller

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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

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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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Doller debuts with a timely novel that carves new ground out of the saturated teen romance and post-war trauma genres. Travis is home in southwest Florida, on leave from Afghanistan and dealing with the death of his best friend and fellow soldier Charlie, the breakup of his parents' marriage, and his girlfriend having left him for his brother. While processing all of this, he meets Harper, a girl whose reputation he destroyed years ago, and the two slowly start to connect. Travis's attempt to overcome his guilt and grief over losing his friend lends dimension to what is an otherwise simple love story. External roadblocks (notably Travis's ex, Paige, who is as intent on infidelity now as she was when they were dating) threaten Travis's and Harper's romance, but Travis's struggle to understand the ways in which the war has transformed him and how to ask for help offers the most tension. Doller avoids politicization of the war, and she addresses post-traumatic stress disorder with honesty and a light touch, making Travis's experience both personal and relatable. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kate Schafer Testerman, kt literary. (June).
Children's Literature - Barbara Carroll Roberts
It's not easy to like Travis Stephenson at first. A nineteen-year-old Marine, home on leave after a year in Afghanistan, Travis is surly, profane, cold and angry. Angry to be spending a month at home where he no longer fits. Angry that his dad is still a total jerk. And furiously angry that his best friend, Charlie, was killed in Afghanistan. Now Charlie haunts Travis, waking and sleeping, and it's Travis's journey to begin to make peace with Charlie's death that forms the core of this novel. The language in this book, like Travis's emotions, is rough and raw, and this is not a book for young teens unless they are already quite streetwise. But older teens, particularly boys, will find it gripping, because while Travis's personality isn't immediately appealing, his pain rips through the pages of this book like an open wound, and the reader just can't look away. Travis is helped in his journey by Harper, a girl he has known since middle school, and the love that begins to grow between them softens and balances the story. Doller did extensive research with a group of young, active-duty Marines in order to bring their world to life, which means, among other things, that anyone who wants to avoid frank descriptions and discussions of sex and underage drinking should avoid this book. But it is this very frankness and honesty—about sex, drinking, the battlefield, and everything else that consumes the lives of these young men and women—that will make the book so appealing for older teens. Reviewer: Barbara Carroll Roberts
VOYA - Debbie Wenk
Nineteen-year-old Travis, USMC, is home on leave after a year-long tour in Afghanistan where he saw his best friend, Charlie, killed in action. Home is not so great either: Dad is cheating on Mom and his younger brother has hooked up with Travis's ex-girlfriend. Travis is haunted by Charlie's death and so wracked with guilt, he sees Charlie and talks to him. Sleep is no escape as he has recurring nightmares about Afghanistan and wakes in a sweat after only a few hours of sleep. The only time anything resembles normal is when he is with Harper—the girl whose reputation he casually trashed in middle school. Their tentative steps toward a relationship may be the lifeline Travis needs. This is a compelling look at the aftermath of a tour of duty in a war zone. The nervous awkwardness his family feels around him makes sense—he left them as a high school graduate and returns as a war-hardened Marine. While the relationship between him and Harper is meant to be the story's focus, it is Travis's relationship with his mom that gives depth to his character. His annoyance at her nervous chatter as they leave the airport evolves into real appreciation for her vigilance during his tour of duty and seething anger at his father for his disrespectful treatment of his mom. Harper, on the other hand, seems too good to be true, always saying and doing just the right thing. The story does not have the depth of Reinhardt's The Things a Brother Knows (Random House, 2010/VOYA October 2010), but still has a place in a YA collection. Reviewer: Debbie Wenk
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Travis Stephenson is back home in Florida, on leave from Afghanistan where he has been serving on active duty as a U.S. Marine. The war has changed him, and upon his return, he is overwhelmed by his hometown, his friends, and his family. His ex-girlfriend is now dating his brother, his parents are splitting up because his dad is having an affair, and he's haunted by nightmares and hallucinations. When he reconnects with Harper Gray, a girl he spread a rumor about in middle school, he finds relief from his anxieties. During his leave, Travis must come to terms with his best friend's death during combat and realize that his flashbacks and visions are not part of the standard post-combat experience and that he needs professional help. By the end of the novel, he finds the strength to speak at Charlie's memorial. The romance and tight narrative make this a dynamo of a soldier's story.—Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL
Kirkus Reviews
An affecting look at the experience of one teen soldier's experience on leave from Afghanistan. Travis is trying hard to pretend everything is normal, but there's nothing normal about this little chunk of life at his former home in Florida. His girlfriend is now sleeping with his little brother, a smug, self-interested bastard. His friends don't understand why he can't just slide back into his stupid pre-Afghanistan life. His mother worries nonstop. The only thing that's normal is that his father, an ex–football player who bullied Travis mercilessly into playing the game, still seems to hate his guts. At least when he was with his unit, they all understood how their shared hellish experience has affected them. An unlikely encounter with Harper, a girl he humiliated in middle school, gives him a sense that, maybe, a normal life might be something he can shoot for. Travis' present-tense narration puts readers directly into his uneasy psyche; he only gradually reveals to himself as well as readers the extent of the damage he has taken in the desert. If the growing relationship between Travis and Harper seems too good to last and the sudden stiffening of his mother's spine unlikely, readers will be so invested in Travis' poor, shattered soul they will forgive narrative convenience. At its heart, this too-timely novel is purely honest. (Fiction. 14 & up)

This is something wonderful about a teen book that can speak to adults too. Trish Doller's Something Like Normal has that power not just because it's about a Marine attempting to make the difficult transition back from the war in Afghanistan, but ultimately because it does it so well. From the opening paragraph, Travis Stephenson's stream of consciousness narrative on his arrival back in the States captures his moods and personality perfectly even as it sets out the force and direction of the story ahead. The emotional authenticity of the first chapters is impressive; for a first-time author (and a non-ex-Marine at that!), it's dang near miraculous. Having known some ex-Marines and several other soldiers trying to find a way back to "peacetime" reality, I have some small sense of how Travis' life and mind got so messy and how regaining focus requires more than a few pills and a victory march down Main Street. —R.J. Wilson, Bookseller, #1002, New York NY

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Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)
HL760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

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Something Like Normal 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
BiblioJunkies More than 1 year ago
I chose to read Something Like Normal because I wanted something contemporary. With all the baggage mentioned above, I was fully prepared for the story to spiral into depression. That never happened. Instead, I found myself very much drawn to Travis Stephenson, the 18 year-old Marine returning home to Fort Myers for a month’s leave. What impressed me about Travis is his startling maturity. He profoundly honest about himself and his family. He accepts that things are far from ideal: his estranged relationship with his over-bearing, alpha-male Superbowl champion dad, his jealous, undermining younger brother and his eager-to-please mom. His dysfunctional relationships don’t stop there. There’s also his ex-girlfriend, Paige who sent him a “Dear John” letter while he was in Afghanistan. The postage had barely stuck to the envelope when she took up with his brother. Awkward! So you see, it’s not exactly a happy homecoming. Throughout the story, Travis is haunted by the death of his best friend and fellow Marine, Charlie. Often he reminisces about his experience in Afghanistan but zeroes in on his close bond with Charlie. He’s riddled with guilt over his loss and has yet to process all the things he’s been through. It's a revelation to realize that he feels more at home with his Marine brotehrs in a war torn region than he does with his family in Florida. He feels like a fish out of water. His year away has given him perspective, allowing him to define his idea of what “family” is. And having been in the company of his brothers, knowing that they’d stick with each other through hell and worse, he’s not interested in mending fences with his father and brother. When Travis runs into Harper, a girl who has been dogged by awful rumors that Travis himself started, he is spun around on his head. Initially she wants nothing to do with him and makes that clear after a swift punch to the face. Hey, a girl deserves her moment of revenge after going through high school hell, right? But they keep running into each other and Harper starts to loosen up even offering to help him with a family dinner. Here’s where I came to like Travis. Travis hates himself and most everyone around him. He’s been disappointed by his family. He has no pretensions about himself and can be a real ass. He admits his flaws, acknowledges his mistakes and owns up to his jackass nature. Harper is a breath of fresh air, opposite of him and his ex-girlfriend. With Harper, he cares about what he says and does. He’s enamored by her and picks up on her little mannerisms that make him go weak: “ … she gives me a tiny bit-lip smile that knocks the wind out of my chest.” And then there those moments when he shows his vulnerability: “I want to tell her I won’t hurt her, but what proof does she have of that? Thing is, I don’t want to hurt her. Harper brings out something different in me than Paige. Something better. At least, I want to believe that.” Every time he noticed Harper, I smiled because he was genuinely happy then. This was something good finally happening to him. Something worth protecting. With Harper’s sincerity and patience, he starts to come to grips with Charlie's death and the traumatic events he witnessed while in Afghanistan. He also steps up to be the kind of man his mom needs in the light of his father’s many transgressions. Something Like Normal was engaging from start to finish. Travis’ drive to become a better person and work through is issues is admirable. He's the underdog you root for. The story leaves you feeling hopeful that each day gets better and brighter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok...I liked the book, the subject, and writing style...but 10 bucks for 144 pages?! I cant help but feel ripped off.
Suzie_Beth17 More than 1 year ago
if you have ever loved a soldier you will enjoy this book
Andrea_C More than 1 year ago
Travis comes home for a month on break from the Marines. He has just lost his best friend Charlie in Afghanistan. His girlfriend Paige is now dating his brother, yet still wants to screw him. His father is a retired professional football player who is pissed at him for not following in his footsteps. He has been gone for a year and feels lost and disassociated from his former world. And he keeps seeing his dead friend everywhere. It's yet another case of PTSD and not a topic often found in YA literature. It's a heart-wrenching story that makes you feel sad as you're reading it. Travis tells his story in his own words and shares a lot of his feelings, but has a hard time being completely forthcoming with it all. He has to come to terms with a lot of emotions and decisions made in the heat of the moment, both in country and abroad. As he explores these, he reveals more and more. We're just along for the ride. His silver lining comes in the form of Harper. She is the girl he kissed during a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven during middle school. Stupidly telling the other guys that he had gotten a little boob action while making out with her, Travis accidentally starts a rumor that quickly spirals out of control and ruins Harper's reputation for good in school. When they first meet up with each other, she gives him a deserved punch in the face, but then softens toward him. It's a plausible type of relationship. Something Like Normal is a desire that many of us have in life, especially those who are thrust into situations that change their lives. It isn't going to leave with a sunny, happy feeling about life, but will make you think about your choices in life and those about whom you really care. The publisher recommends this book for ages 14 and above. Sexual scenes are present and alluded to, but not detailed. I received a complimentary set of galleys in exchange for my honest review. This also appears on Andi's Young Adult Books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book kept my interests throughout. Very good characters also. I would love to have a sequel...what happens in 4 years???
LittlePiecesofImagination More than 1 year ago
I’ve had this ebook for the longest time and finally picked it up since I was in the mood for a contemporary and people really seem to love this novel. Plus, a standalone? That’s a rarity nowadays. I’m a little confused on how I feel about Something Like Normal, but I’m mostly filled with good emotions when I think back to it. I think… “I don't know if my life will ever be completely normal again, but something like normal is a good start.” Travis was a good main character because I felt that he was real. Doller managed make him flawed and paint him as someone who still makes mistakes, yet someone you want to root for. I felt for his character—his friend’s death, home situation, the way everyone thought of him as the local hero even though he felt anything but. Then again I didn’t form a very big emotional connection with him and probably because most of the time he was so closed off.  As for the other characters, I thought that Travis’s Dad was such a douche. I really felt like slapping that SOB—he was so rude, douchy and overall someone I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with. I was waiting for Travis’s mom to grow some lady balls and stand up for herself and kick him out already. There is some cheating in this book. That was my least favorite part. It wasn’t excessive and honestly? Idk. I feel like… cheating isn’t excusable, but did Travis’s brother honestly think it wouldn’t happen? The girl—Paige?—was just asdfghjkl. Not a very likable girl. I know Travis was not together with Harper when those two times happened, but still… I felt kind of disappointed by Travis’s actions. Which brings me to Harper: I HAD FEELS. Yep, I had feels and they were everywhere. Harper was a great girl and Travis’s friends from Afganistan were pretty darn awesome. I liked almost all of the scenes these 3 (Harper and the two friends) were in.  I do think that this book has one major minus—it’s so freakin’ short. I’m pretty sure that this is one of the reasons why my emotional connection was so minor compared to what it could have been. The ending was really good though—the final chapter was pretty epic and I liked how the book ended on a realistic note. To me this book wasn’t that much of a romance story but instead a story about friendship & family and how the values, emotions and feelings regarding them can change over time.  I do recommend this book, but it wasn’t flawless. A little more in length and a little more openness with Travis and this could have been amazing. It was good, not going to lie, but nothing extraordinary. I will most certainly read something else by Doller since she has major potential and I can’t wait to see what else she has in store for us.  Overall rating: 3.4 out of 5.0 More of my reviews can be found on my blog @ Little Pieces of Imagination
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Something Like Normal by Trish Dollar is about a nineteen year old Marine coming back home after being in Afghanistan for 7 months. I thought the book was entertaining and easy to comprehend. It was a short and enjoyable romance novel. Although I expected a little more action than romance, it was still a good book. I wanted to know a little more about what else had happened in the 7 months of him being in Afghanistan other than his friend being shot and a few other stories.  Something Like Normal is about a soldier who is put on leave for a month because his best friend gets shot when they get ambushed by the Taliban. Travis also has PTSD. The last thing Travis wants to do is go home. Before he had left for Afghanistan, his girlfriend broke up with him and started dating his younger brother. His brother also stole his car. His parents are on the verge of a divorce. His life turns around once he meets a girl he disliked back in middle school because she started rumors about him. When they first met, they talked and talked, got along, and enjoyed each others company.  I think the book was great, but not perfect. I think Trish Dollar should’ve told us more about Travis and Harper’s past, such how their relationship was in high school. The only evidence they gave us was that they had a nasty past in middle school. Some evidence from middle school would be great too other than just saying she started rumors, maybe telling us what kind of rumors she had spread would have made it better as well. 
Dazzlamb More than 1 year ago
Travis returns from Afghanistan and everything and everyone back home seems to have changed, moved on without him. While reading SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL I couldn't help putting myself in his position and what I saw felt pretty lonely, troubled and complicated. Travis is a hurt boy and he's lost so much in his young life. His time in war has made him stronger and more vulnerable at the same time. One part of his story is dedicated to the trauma he now carries with him everywhere he goes, the war that's even haunting him in his sleep. The case of Travis' inner conflict, better said illness, is supported by letters and flashbacks to his stunt in Afghanistan. We are seeing what the soldiers' days look like and what it feels like to be thousands of miles away from your family caught in battle and destruction. What you crave, hope, and that you can lose everything in the blink of an eye. Trish Doller found a sensible and honestly realistic voice to give to this troubled boy whose perspective the story of SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL is told from. Harper is the girl who welcomes him back home and gives his days a new reason. They've known each other before the war. And I'm always for two characters who have a common past because it makes it easier to see them falling for each other. In Travis' case, their shared past is one of misunderstandings and mistakes. So, now falling in love will be another trial for both, Harper and Travis. Harper is a really kind and sweet girl. She is a nice character, but I would have wanted for her to have some more kick, to let herself go. There are moments between them that I adored. I mean the turtles Alpha, Juliet and Zulu totally stole my heart! I loved the prospect of Harper's and Travis' relationship, one that could have been explosive. In the end it only felt like scratching on the surface of all their possibilities and everything that could have happened. 4/5 **** - SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL – A real and heart-rending story about learning to live again. SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL had been a book so tempting I grabbed a copy the day it was released and was finished by the next day. I felt this compulsive need to keep reading and stay by Travis' side for as long as it would take for him to feel any kind of normalcy again. Harper and Travis are a couple that adds a certain emotional depth to Trish's debut novel ensuring that many readers will fall for SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL. I only missed more details and probably one or two additional twists and turns that would have required a few extra chapters added to their story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this book over 20 times becuase it was so good. I highly recommend it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've spent many a summer on Ft Myers Beach sonthe familiar landmarks were a huge plus. Wish the sex had been more detailed, but felt it was a great story with sincere characters. Although, getting tired of lead males named Travis and heroines named Garper. Must be an thing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this in one night. I loved how the author developed his character. She did an excellent job portraying how the war had changed him without making it seem hopeless or easy to overcome. I was really suprised ag how good this book was.
DaniRoo More than 1 year ago
This book broke my heart a little, as Trish Doller gives the reader a heartbreaking and frank glimpse into the mind of a grieving soldier who’s having trouble fitting back into a life that no longer feels familiar or normal. From his PTSD, to his disillusionment and anger, to his guilt and despondency, to some incredibly poor decision making, to his attempts to move forward and his inability to leave the past behind, Travis is a very real, flawed and sympathetic character. His brokenness made me both hurt and hope for him – hope especially as spending time with Harper begins to push him towards dealing with his issues. It was an eye-opening story that gave me an even greater appreciation and understanding of the men and women in our armed forces. Overall, a tough emotional story of loss, grief and guilt, but also one of love, healing and forgiveness. 
Alyssa75 More than 1 year ago
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Something Like Normal by Trish Doller Publisher: Bloomsbury Publication Date: June 19, 2012 Rating: 4 stars Source: Public library Summary (from Goodreads): 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. What I Liked:  Recently, all I have been wanting to read is contemporary novels. My favorite genre is fantasy, and then perhaps paranormal and science fiction. But it is books like this one that makes me love contemporary over and over.  The only other book that I have read that had to do with the United States military is If I Lie by Corrine Jackson. While If I Lie did not deal with a soldier's experience with war, Something Like Normal did (I am not comparing the two, I promise! Just making a connection).  I loved that this book was written entirely in Travis' point of view. I loved seeing what was going on inside of his head - the mind of a broken Marine, a lost son, and a man who lost his best friend. Travis' life is so complicated, on all ends, and his reactions to each situation placed in front of him is intense and real. While I disliked him for what I did with Paige, I sort of understand. But I still disliked him for that.  I loved his dynamic relationship with Harper, even if it was a little rushed at the beginning. Harper is an amazing young adult. I think she is one of the strongest and most assertive heroines I have encountered in contemporary novels. She is not overly sassy or catty, but she stands up for herself and does not let Travis control her (not that he would, from my view).  Overall, I loved getting a view inside a Marine's head, after combat. It made this book so powerful, so real, and so effective at making readers realize what the Marines do for us. What I Did Not Like:  As I mentioned before, I did not really like Travis' dalliances with Paige. I understand, but it still is not okay. I did like when things came to light, how Travis handled that with Harper. No excuses.  That was one of my favorite parts of the book. And, as I said before, I felt like Travis and Harper's relationship was a little rushed in the beginning (like, from them meeting again at the party, to them kissing). You knew that was coming, so it is not a spoiler (I hope...). Would I Recommend It:  To all contemporary lovers out there, this is definitely a book you do not want to pass up on. It is very short, and totally worth it. Rating:  4 stars. What a great debut! I look forward to more of Doller's books.
Lostnthestax More than 1 year ago
Summary: Travis comes home for leave after a tour in Afghanistan and he doesn't get the most welcome of homecomings. His parents are on the verge of a divorce, his brother has taken his car and is dating his old girlfriend. On top of all that, he's dealing with the loss of one of his close friends. He finds that the only good thing about being back home comes from a most unexpected acquaintance. Harper is an old school mate that never particularly liked him but they've been seeing new sides to one another and their relationship turns out to be exactly what Travis needs. Review: I was hesitant to start this one only because I knew it was going to be an emotional read and sometimes it takes me a few days to get over those types of books. From the start, Doller had me craving to spend time with her characters. Travis is all kinds of messed up and Harper is right there in his face calling him on his crap, the exchanges between them are down-right charming. While making good decisions is not his strong suit, Travis does realize he has to make some changes in his life. The hard part is making the right ones not just for himself but for those around him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was ok. Well written and good storyline.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I chose the book Something Like Normal for my english project. As a junior, I personaly think this is a great book. Through out the book I found my self more and more into. I found myself drawn into the main charcerter Travis Stephenson, Travis is an 18 year old who had just come home on leave from the Marines. Travis has reacurring nightmares of the death of his bestfrined while on duty in Afghanistan. Something Like Normal is a somewhat enotional boo, just as you start to think all the drama is over fit all starts again. while Travis is gone his ex-girlfriend Payton sends him a "dear Jon" letter and says that she is inlove with his brother Ryan. As soon as Travis comes back he stumbles upon a gril that he use to go to school with "Harper" by the end of the book they start to become more than just tipical friends. aside from the sexual scenes this book is over all a really good book and sets a good time sene for what really happens to the men and women that come back home from the war..
jarujav More than 1 year ago
Travis is a Marine on leave, struggling with PTSD and learning how to sort through home life when his little brother has stolen his car and his girlfriend. But there is this other girl in town– Harper– who makes Travis feel like things could be okay again, even after all he’s experienced in Afghanistan. This book had so much potential– but it just fell flat. The conflict was far too easily resolved (says the writer who always needs to add more conflict!), and even the climax was just too … anti-climactic. I plowed through this book, and it had some great moments, but it fell short for me.
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It was a well written story with so much emotion and reality. However i wished they would have good deeper into the relationship because i didnt feel like it was real.