Review: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Something Like Normal by Trish DollerBook Title/Author: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Publisher/Year
: Bloomsbury June 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary/Realistic Fiction
Series:  No!
Other Books From Author: Debut title. Her next book, Where Stars Still Shine, is slated for September 2013.

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I received Something Like Normal as a gift from a friend.

 

Travis has spent a year in Afghanistan as a Marine and comes home on leave to find that everything is different — within himself and around him. He struggles to adapt to being home with a new perspective and feeling the full weight of the death of his best friend and fellow Marine. He’s haunted by those memories of Afghanistan and is confronted by the changes in his parent’s relationship, his ex-girlfriend dating his brother and the way his life is just so far from normal now and how his time in Afghanistan has changed him. It’s not until he runs into Harper, a girl who he’d wronged in middle school, that he starts to enjoy his time home and starts to face all of the things he’s not allowed to bubble to the surface — the death of Charlie, the cracks in his family and the reality of post traumatic stress.

WOW! Let me just start off by saying…if you are a fan of realistic YA fiction, you MUST read this! It’s an example of what I love in realistic YA and, while I don’t attach stars to my reviews because they are so complicated for me, I can tell you, WITHOUT A DOUBT, Something Like Normal has garnered 5 stars from me! One of the best books I’ve read so far in 2013 and it seriously is a gem! I just can’t say enough good things about this book and I feel like my review will never do it justice.

Something Like Normal had one of the BEST male POVs ever — right up there with Adam from Where She Went. It was so fresh and felt like a genuine male perspective — you’ll want to punch him at times, hug him and probably date him. So many times I’ll read a male POV and feel perplexed because it doesn’t feel like ANY guys I know…especially not a teenager..but never once did I feel like this. Travis’ voice, in general, was just one that is so memorable and I adored him and his story.  I can’t imagine how he felt coming home from Afghanistan and how changed your perspective is from what you’ve seen and experienced — especially the death of a close friend. My only reference for understanding that is after my mom had died. Suddenly I just didn’t see things the same way and it was hard to operate as normal. You start to see things as more/less important than they were. I think Trish Doller did an amazing job showing the difficulty of a soldier coming back into his normal life and it made me care and think a lot more than I ever have about our soldiers to be completely REAL with you.

While a slim book, the story Something Like Normal tells descended into the depths of my heart and I’m not quite sure it will ever leave. The fullness in which I felt every emotion, the intensity of every heartbreaking scene and the pure and true LOVE I had for these completely special yet flawed characters — Travis, Harper, Travis’ mom, Charlie, Charlie’s moms — is not something that is so easily shaken off by starting another book as is often the case for me. I can’t say I’ve read a book that has affected me like this in a while. My heart swells with a myriad of emotions as I think about this book and is a tribute to Trish Doller’s undeniably beautiful words and ability to make a story not just a story but to transcend into an experience. Not just words on a page but that rare experience where those words seep into your bloodstream and circulates the whole of your body leaving no organ nor piece of tissue untouched.

Your heart is in very capable hands, friends. Something Like Normal is, without a doubt, one of the best contemporary books I’ve ever read and one of my favorite romantic relationships ever as it is beautiful but also flawed as it blossoms (and I loved Travis’ relationship with his mom just as much!). Straight up DAMN AMAZING. Travis’ story will move you and will make your heart soar (and your eyes will experience this phenomena wherein they leak water…). Beautiful, honest and a real stunner of a novel. I will not stop singing praises for this book and I am calling it now — Trish Doller is going to be one of THOSE authors who be a staple in the contemporary YA world. Keep your eye on her! I am excited for what is to come based on the special experience that is Something Like Normal.  New favorite author alert for me!

 

For Fans  Of: straight up excellent realistic teen fiction, a great male POV, an “older” YA book, beautiful stories that balance tenderness with the brutal and raw things life throws your way, those “more than real” characters, a romance that is beautiful yet flawed as it blossoms

something-like-normal-trish-doller

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it?  If you read it, did you love it or feel differently than me? I want to know so we can discuss! Did you cry like a baby like I did at a certain PART at the end? And then again at a part with his mom? As a sidenote, I’m curious if you would consider this novel “New Adult”? THIS is pretty much what I envisioned when I heard of NA — before we knew much about it.

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 28 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating gelato, listening to music with oversized headphones and teaching her niece how to be as awesome as she is.

Comments

  1. I looooved SLN and I got a little teary in the end! TBH I don’t even know if this should be considered new adult or not. It’s what I want NA to be, I can tell you that much. It’s about the growing pains we still have after high school ends. For Harper, it’s about trying to shake off the image people had of her in hs and for Travis it’s about figuring out what the hell he wants from life. That’s what I think NA should be and hopefully will morph into.

    I have to say I don’t read too many male perspective books but SLN went a long way toward changing my view on them. Where She Went was another one, as I’m sure Just One Year will be. There was just something really authentic about Travis’ voice, though I guess I have no way of knowing that for sure! The only bad thing I could ever say about SLN is that I wish there had been more of it. I can’t even wait for Trish Doller’s next book. And she’s also super nice if you follow her on twitter!

    • YES! So what I want NA to be too!! LOVE what you said. THIS EXACTLY.

      Another great male perspective, I thought, was When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney..but it’s not out until June! But I was really in love with that book!

  2. I’ve only heard of this book in passing. Trish Doller is lovely at twitter but I never really ave much thought in reading her book. I’ll definitely add it to my TBR pile now though. Great review, Jamie!

  3. I have thought about this one a few times. do I want to read it? or, don’t I? Your review has me sold!

  4. This and Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina are the two books that stand out to me as ones about which I read nothing but good things throughout 2012, yet didn’t get to read myself until this past month—and of course I kicked myself for waiting so long!

    I was really impressed with how Trish Dollar took what could have been a straightforward “issue” plot—PTSD, military life, death and loss—and wrote it in such a way that made it anything but. And I will never not appreciate endings that are truly earned by their characters, the ones that leave us fulfilled without also feeling as though everything came together just a little too easily.

    • I need to read Seraphina! I’ve heard marvelous things!!

      YES to this “really impressed with how Trish Doller took what could have been a straightforward “issue” plot and wrote it in a way that made it anything but.” YES YES YES. I think this was the reason why i was so EH about picking it up before. I thought it would be issuey and formulaic. NOT AT ALL. And the ending was perfect. There was that glimmer of hope but nothing was all pretty with a bow…you know there was a lot to be done. And that’s so true of life…we have to take those moments where we feel like we can breathe and feel hope that the future can be better and we will move forward. It takes work and time and tears and struggle. And I loved that about this book.

      Thanks for your incredibly thoughtful and insightful comment!

  5. I read and reviewed this book recently and loved it! So well done. Glad to hear you liked it, too.

  6. Didn’t I tell you! I KNEW you’d love this! SO happy to hear how you loved it, I love seeing people fall in love with Travis and his story. Plus, his voice was so authentic right!? As I said it my review, the best I’ve read. Yay for loving it and though I understand what you mean about never writing a review worthy of this book, you did a fine damn job!

    • YOU WERE RIGHT! You know me!! So authentic. Normally I will read a male POV and just think they sound too much like how we as women want them to think lol.

      And thank you <33 So excited for her next book!

  7. YES! Totally agree with everything. I LOVED this one.

  8. EEP! I got this one from the library on Friday and can’t wait to read it! I’m so glad to hear you liked it and that the males POV actually sounded like your average male! I understand what you mean by some male POV just don’t seem genuinely correct and it’s frustrating! And the fact that you compared him to Adams perespective from Where She Went NEED. TO. READ. NOW
    Great Review
    Lily

  9. you do know i’m holding you responsible for making my wishlist explode, yeah? :D

  10. I’m glad you loved this book so much! :D I enjoyed it, but not quite as much. I wished it was longer. I think I felt like the length didn’t give the relationship enough time to develop!

    • I so wished it was longer just because I loved it so much and wanted to see their happily ever after play out. But I so was ok with the length and where we saw the relationship blossom rather than develop bc I feel like Travis has a lot of things he needs to work through first. But I totally am greedypants and want like a whole series of books with them until we see their happily ever after :P

  11. So what you’re saying is I should stop owning the book since it came out without actually READING it? Noted!

  12. Ahhhh! I love your skirt (dress?) and tights. I want to go shopping with you. That should happen.

    On the topic of the actual book, I’m so glad you loved this, because it’s one of the books that taught me I could love contemporaries. And, she did such an amazing job with Travis’ perspective, I agree. Felt one hundred percent like a guy, I think because she didn’t try to clean him up. So many of the male perspectives are idealized to the point that they feel like women. If he doesn’t check out a girl’s rack or think any vaguely racy thoughts, I’m like REALLY? Obviously there are exceptions, like gay guys or those who pretty much don’t have a sex drive (like in Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You), but generally they’re supposed to be red-blooded, desperate for sex males, so it doesn’t work. I had a huge issue with this in Beautiful Creatures, I remember.

    Awww, the moms were really well done too. :)

    So, so glad that you loved this. I am so excited for her next book!

    • Dress! And thank you! We should totes go shopping together at BEA! I love clothes shopping almost as much as book shopping.

      I am definitely handing this to people wary of contemps! And I SO agree with you..it felt so authentic and not “cleaned up”..because a lot of the times I read a male POV and I’m like ok that’s more what i WISH a guy was thinking not what he’s probably actually thinking. Would love to get a male perspective on this book!

  13. It makes me so happy that you loved this! Trish Doller is amazing! I LOVE Travis, so so so much. I’m glad you liked it!!

    AND great point on excellent male POV, just like Adam. Love them both <3

  14. I did not read ‘Something Like Normal’ before but your enthusiasm is so catching I will listen to you – putting this book on top of my tbr. ;)

    • YAY! Mission accomplished! I really did put this book on my WTF WHY IS THIS BOOK NOT MORE POPULAR list on goodreads because it really did blow me away. It’s so unassuming and small and I totally didn’t know what i was going to get from it!

  15. I’ve been meaning to read Something Like Normal for such a long time. I have a copy of the book, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. But after reading your rave review, I really should make time. I’m a bit nervous abou it though. I have to be in just the right mood for it.

    • Quinn you must soon so we can discuss! I really think you’ll like it! It’s SUCH a quick read but packs in so much emotion. That slim little book is deceiving!

  16. I love slim, male POV contemporary reads for some reason. I think I get tired of the female voice and want to hear more what the boys think! But, that being said, I sometimes feel like it takes a lot to get the male POV just right. I don’t want to hear a male’s thoughts that sound too female! Wow, that was kind of un-politically correct! But you know what I mean (I hope!). I’ve heard nothing but great things about this one and really should carve out some time for it! Great review!

    • YES! I’m so with you. I think it’s funny because I looked at my GR read list and realize I RARELY read a male perspective…and most of the instances were a dual perspective. Put When You Were Here on your TBR list. Another great male perspective though I think I still like Travis’ better!

      But I totally get what you are saying! A lot of times I feel like it sounds like what we as woman want them to be thinking ! lol

      Please read it! I really think you will love it!

  17. I loved this one so much! And I really can’t wait to read Trish’s next book (and any other book she may ever write in the future). I haven’t read any “actual” new adult books, but I wouldn’t consider this in that category. It’s on the older side of YA, but I still consider it YA.

    • I’m so excited for her next book too!

      Thanks for your perspective on if you think it is NA or YA. I guess, for me, it just seemed like what I personally imagined NA to be..that time after HS! But you are so right..it could just be the “older” side of YA.

  18. Knock over my to-read pile and put this at the top? Yes, ma’am! I’ve been trying to branch out into more realistic YA, because I’m a pretty huge speculative fiction nerd and I like to broaden my horizons, so this is going on the to-read pile right now. Off to buy it…

  19. This is exactly what I wish people meant when they called something “new adult” and not just “YA with graphic sex.” Sex isn’t the only thing that people explore when they are newly adult!

    As I said to you on twitter I think, I loved that Travis is not a quirky, “special,” “sensitive,” teen guy narrator (even though he is both special and sensitive, just not in that air quotes way.) I really like your comparison of him to Adam from WSW–they’re two totally different types of guys, but they both felt real to me.

    I think Where the Stars Still Shine will be one of the first of our fall books that I read–I just want more Trish!

    • EVERYTHING YOU SAID ERICA x 10000 re: NA and sexed up YA. This is how I picture it. This and the Jessica Darling series after she gets out of high school. And the show Felicity. SO MANY THINGS TO DISCOVER!

      I think that’s a good choice! I’ve heard from Carla and Ginger it is phenomenal so I’m excited!!

  20. This cover caught my eye a while back. It looks interesting… now I am curious, Jamie. Thanks!

  21. Oh, yes! I LOVED this book. I thought Travis was one of the best – and most believable – male YA narrators I had read in a long time.

  22. I recently read SNL too, and was SO pleased with it. It’s gritty, and doesn’t pretend to be a happyshiny book, and I loved that about it, plus, that we got a male narrator who wasn’t this romanticized guy. Instead he was REAL. I was really engrossed in this book – in fact, I read it in one sitting, and that very rarely happens.

    I love your review, Jamie. You touched on so much that I love about the book. I had trouble identifying with Travis at first, but then I really felt like I could. His loss made me think about when I lost my Grandma Jean, who was sort of my mentor in life. It DOES make you see things differently. By the end, I just wanted to hug Travis. I liked that he wasn’t okay and that Trish didn’t preach about him HAVING to be okay, but instead let the story take him to a place where he was ready to accept it all. Just, it was a gorgeous book.

    • YES! I too had trouble with “getting him” at first. But then I grew to really love him and the honest and refreshing POV he brought. “not romanticized” — so perfect to describe him!!

      “I liked that he wasn’t okay and that Trish didn’t preach about him HAVING to be okay, but instead let the story take him to a place where he was ready to accept it all.” BEST THING EVER. I wish I wrote that! lol That is exactly though what I loved about it! We know he still has a long way to go but I was SO HOPEFUL at the end!

  23. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book. When I first started seeing the reviews and stuff, it was quite a while ago and I wasn’t really reading as much comtemporary, but i’ve learned through the end of 2012 that these kinda books really rule. Books that make you feel and stuff. :o) Gonna try to pick this one up soon. :)

    • April I really think you would like this one!! I really do! This is seriously one of the best contemps (and I AM a contemp gal so I read a lot of it!)

  24. OH MY GOSH YES. Travis and Harper are some of the very reasons that I fell in love with contemporary. I completely agree with every single thing you said. It’s been so long since I’ve read this one and I’d actually love to go back and re-read it. And I am sitting on the perilous edge of my seat for Trish’s next book because I feel completely safe in her writing hands. I just have a huge feeling that after reading something like this, everything she puts on paper for us will be wonderful. I remember reading and being blown away at how REAL Travis felt, like he was an actual 3-D person trying to leap out of the pages of the book and into my head or into the room with me. It was like I could actually hear his voice and Harper’s voice and hear his thoughts as he was at war with himself and fought to get himself together after he came home. Such a freaking brilliant book. And I absolutely ADORE this cover for this book. There is NOTHING about it that I don’t love 100%. So glad you read it and loved it, Jamie. So very glad. This one is an absolute winner and makes me SO GLAD that I love to read. OMG what if we didn’t read – think of all of the people that are missing out on this story? It’s tragic.

  25. I loved this book when I read it last year, and I’m so glad that you felt the same way! Travis felt like someone I could be friends with, and I was just overcome by the urge to hug him and make sure that things would be okay. It’s so well-written, and so quietly compelling – this book is stellar.

  26. Totally agree with your review of SLN!! Loved this book so hard and I can’t wait until Where the Stars Still Shine is released! Love Trish Dollar!

  27. I…I will gush SO HARD over this book! It’s so good so good so good. It pretty much wrecked me from page one but man, it’s amazing. I can’t wait for Where the Stars Still Shine!

    Love,
    Ava

Trackbacks

  1. […] 2. Travis & Harper from Trish Doller’s Something Like Normal: Ah this one is so great! Sometimes you want to punch Travis but I love how patient Harper is but she lets him have it! I loved watching their relationship develop and how they cared so much about each other and they let each other in to the darker corners of their life. Love a relationship that starts with some substance and this one is just beautiful. (Review of Something Like Normal) […]

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  3. […] from Something Like Normal by Trish Doller: Oh my goodness. I love him so much. One of my newest fictional crushes. I can’t even tell […]

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  5. […] Doller. Her debut, Something Like Normal, is pretty popular in the book blogosphere and one of my favorite contemporaries but Trish deserves […]

  6. […] Of High School Upon Entering: Where The Wild Things Are Your relationship with academics: Something Like Normal <I did well but I hated doing the work. Would rather have been there for the socializing.> […]

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