Author: Trish Doller
Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
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.
Harper is pretty amazing. She doesn't take any crap, and some of the things that Travis has done in the past and does in the course of the novel make her upset and angry. But she's still able to notice that Travis is dealing with some Stuff, and to sympathize with him and want to be there for him. She is great at sticking up for herself, but also recognizes when to let go of a grudge. My one complaint would be that sometimes Harper just seems too nice, but her goodness is not to the point of being over-exaggerated and there are times when she's angry at Travis or her father to balance out the nice, so it's not a significant drawback at all. Travis's mom is another lady worth a mention. She struggles with some troubles of her own, and Travis is able to help her a little bit with that. Their relationship development is touching.
The story has a lot of stuff in it regarding trust and opening up to people, seeing which relationships are worth having and which ones aren't worth your trouble, and dealing with internal conflicts. There are still events taking place, though. It's not all introspective. There are flashbacks to Travis's tour in Afghanistan, date nights, hanging out with friends (civilian and not), dealing with family troubles, and facing the past as well as the present and the future.
I definitely recommend Something Like Normal. It has the cuteness of a contemporary romance for a touch of summertime fluff, but it also hits on some tough issues to keep it grounded and relevant. It's a great book for older YA/New Adult fans, particularly if you like contemporary pieces or appreciate books dealing with PTSD in soldiers.