Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

The horrors of barely surviving a war, immortalized. 
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Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Bloomsbury, Hardcover, 224 pages
I love soldier boys – they’re my weakness. I’ve yet to read a book about them that I didn’t like. Travis, inspired by the boy whom I coveted since the dawn of time (Jonah Griggs), is a Marine on leave after a harrowing tour in Afghanistan. At home, he finds that things were as per usual. Aside from the fact that his ex moved on to his brother, he’d say everything else was status quo: his friends were the same and his father was still the same a**hole as when he enlisted. Even the girl who hated him since they were fourteen still despises him with a passion. But the thing about Harper is, she has this ability to distract him from the things in his head that could potentially drive him to the brink of a full blown breakdown. Armed with a resolve to find his normal, along with a girl who could very well be the one to help him on his quest, Travis will learn to accept that the death of his friend Charlie was not his fault but a collateral damage of a wasteful war.

This book is about the ugly truth that even if you come home in one piece, you never truly survive a war. There are things that changes a person and killing people for the sake of whatever political reasons your government may have is one of them. This is also about grief and learning to let go.

Trish Doller combined humour and honest truths in telling Travis’s story. I hated what he did in a couple of occasions and loved every which way he dealt with healing himself. It drove me nuts when he thought he could do better than what the therapist could ever do for him but I also understood that if a person is not ready to face their problems, he’ll always fail at his attempts.

As a mother, I understood and felt for his mom. BUT. Regardless of how alike Travis’ brother was to their father, I don’t agree that mothers play favourites. I don’t care how awful one is over the other, but mothers don’t ever play favourites. That’s just my opinion, though.

A lot of people on Goodreads feel that this story didn’t pack enough punch for such a book tackling such heavy topics. I think that Trish Doller is on her way to contemporary lit stardom. But if you’re going to come out and say your character was inspired by one Jonah Griggs, I think you should be ready to hike up your girl pants and give us something worthy of such a statement. My expectations were through the roof when I first learned about Travis but sadly, he wasn’t as memorable as Jonah.

Please don’t misunderstand. I really did enjoy this book. I guess it’s just hard not to expect a lot when you come out swinging by dropping names like that.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

P.S. Oddly enough, the first thing I wrote after taking a hiatus was a poem about Travis.

I spent one hour –
two hours reading this book.
Soldier boy coming home
riddled with guilt.

Finding ways to become normal again
former life – new life
filled with strife.

It’s a brotherhood camaraderie in an infantry
but it’s more than that –
greater than that
it’s family.

Life gives you multiple chances
and offer you another set
of friends and romances.

In Charlie, he found another brother.
In Harper, he found another lover.
One thing’s constant and that’s his mother
because there’ll be no replacement or another.

War is ugly
destructive and traumatizing.
Can you imagine if you were on the path
they were marching?

Piecing soldier boy together again
seems impossible –
hardly tolerable
to those less than able.

Nightmares
visions
hallucinations
finding peace is a task beyond comprehension.

Sitting comfortably on a velvet couch
could hardly absolve him of guilt beyond doubt.
But he persevered
and struggled and kept trying.

One day soon Travis will find his zen
perhaps in another life
and in another family again.

  • Such a fast read and yet so many elements. I laughed out loud and cried too. Travis is the kind of character that melts your heart.

    Zaira Lynn (Divorce Attorney)

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  • I've heard the same Joy that this book doesn't really pack a punch, but I'm still curious in giving it a go especially now that I know Travis' character was influenced by Jonah Griggs of all people!!! Love this review Joy and especially your poem! 🙂

  • I really enjoyed this book and I definitely agree with the fact that when I read the summary I thought it would be a heavier read because of the topic but, I really enjoyed it. I am definitely a fan of Trish Doller, I can't wait for her new book. Great review!

    Kristin @ Young Adult Book Haven

  • I loved this book!!!! Soldier boys are yummy. And yes to Jonah Griggs!

  • I didn't know Travis was inspired by my Jonah! That's crazy. I loved Travis but like you say Jonah is unique and so unfergatable.

    P.S. love your poem!
    P.P.S. I miss Jonah Griggs 🙁