Monday, May 7, 2012
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
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.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
…That it’s not something I’d normally pick. Boy coming home a different man. Travis intrigued me; this man who’s recollections had me unsure if I’d like him. In the end though, he drew me in because it’s not a simple coming to terms type of story. His disconnection or insisting on being disconnected, his lack of reason, the state his family is in, then the state he was in mentally/emotionally all had me.
…That it’s unexpectedly funny despite the hard things it’s about. I’d find myself surprised to be grinning at how Harper was with him. This girl might well be my favorite character in the novel. She read solid. Good girl, but not stick in the mud straight. I like that she didn’t take things too seriously. That she could be both sensible and sensitive. Still her decision about him was one moment that had I was confused (more on this later.)
Of course, there’s Charlie. Second to Harper, it’s his role in this that pushed me forward a little more. What was it about him that affected Travis so deeply? Bit by bit, each recollection painted a picture of a guy so different from Travis. He was an interesting addition like the best friend character in Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Though not as actively present as that guy, Charlie still played a vital part in this one.
…How connected he was to his ‘brothers.’ The camaraderie felt close to what I imagine. The inside jokes, the behavior others might deem offensive all had me imagining a rowdy bunch with a shared past.
… That even with moments of it feeling gritty, with him feeling being drawn out and beat down, things never reached that point where I’m all choked up. I felt for him at certain points, surely. It’s just that sometimes his actions made sense, and other times didn’t. Also the people around him, just like he was, were not quite the perfectly ‘good’ types:
Take a father with whom a rocky relationship existed at best, a mother from whom he drew away time and again then a younger brother who I didn’t quite understand. At this point I’m half tempted to point out how none of them seemed to step out of the roles that they’d been assigned. The lack of something more from them (father and brother especially,) had me wondering: There’s got to be more to you guys than what’s stated! Thankfully, I got my answer eventually from some: Travis, and his mother to be specific. And I like that there’s something more to these two. The relationships in this one were not easy to witness. You end up feeling sorry for one more than the other, but things changed eventually.
…On a romance that doesn’t necessarily come out of nowhere because there’s a history for them to start from. It’s just that this history emphasized how young and imperfect he was. Still his being far-from-perfect is key in it. So I’m still confused even as I said, their connection was heartwarming but a teensy bit confusing. I couldn’t see it, but maybe Harper could? Again, it’s this girl who’s sensitive enough and open minded enough that allowed for things to progress. They made for an interesting pair, even after several bad calls on his end again and again. So, them together? Never simple, but still quite interesting.
Again, it’s not something I’d normally pick. But I’m surprised and impressed that the author makes no angels out of (most of) them. His father, his brother, and Travis himself are flawed, yet how they were worked for me eventually. The story is another quiet one (with the added bonus of flashback that revealed so much) and over all its emotional and not over the top. It’s got something to it even if the people in it are not people I always liked.
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