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)

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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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