Goodreads summary: 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.
Of all the branches of the military I am most partial to the Marines, for familial reasons. What with the main male character being a Marine and the romantic element, I was very excited to read Something Like Normal. It turned out to be not quite what I expected, in both a positive and a negative way.
This is a twee book, so I’m not sure why I was expecting so much more detail—but I was. I thought the Travis/Harper romance would be meatier. While not exactly insta-love—they’ve known each other for a while before the story begins—it was pretty close. Harper makes it clear from the beginning that there’s no love lost between her and Travis and you’d think he’d really have to work for her trust. I’m guessing from the timetable that, since Travis is supposed to be home for a month, the two of them reunite and start dating within a week, week and a half at most. That, to me, is not “working.”
But to her credit, Doller treats the attitude regarding the relationship quite realistically. Travis is not a tremendously romantic guy; he has been thrown over in the past, is suffering from PTSD, and still has a long ways to go until he’s no longer indebted to the military:
She’s a happily-ever-after kind of girl and I can’t make that kind of promise when I’m only nineteen and still owe the Marine Corps three more years of active duty. Anything could happen.
I’m not sure if “enjoyed” is the right word, but I really appreciated the glimpse into Marine life and the depiction of the guys’ relationships with each other. Seeing how they interact with each other, both in-country and out, made me smile (sadly, in the case of the Charlie flashbacks).
I think the main reason this fell into the “it was okay” category for me was that the issue of PTSD is dealt with so sparsely. I know most military people won’t be reading Something Like Normal during their free time, but PTSD and how it should be handled are very important and deserve to be spotlighted. This is another topic I expected to get a little more air time, as it were, considering the description on the inside cover.
Speaking of the cover… what is with the kissy cover? This isn’t really a kissy book. Sigh.
* Apparently the Mounties also say this. Which makes me laugh. A lot.