Saturday, February 09, 2013

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Author Trish Doller has an amazing Tumblr, click here to visit it, where she regularly posts snippets of whatever her work-in-progress is. That's how in the months leading up to the release of Something Like Normal I was able to get a really good taste of her writing, through a novel that has since sold and been renamed as Where The Stars Still Shine. I mention this because these snippets, along with a first chapter excerpt from SLN available on her website, are exactly what had me so incredibly excited to read her debut novel– so much so that I pre-ordered it months in advance, something I rarely ever do.

Suffice it to say, I had pretty high expectations for this debut novel. 

Something Like Normal is the story of Travis, a marine who has just returned home from Afghanistan, to a situation that has changed dramatically. His brother's dating his girlfriend, his parents are breaking up, and he's having nightmares about his dead best friend. It's a lot to handle. Then he runs into Harper, a girl whose life he helped ruin but who now offers him the possibility of happiness again, or at least something like normal.

There were quite a few things I loved about this book. Doller writes an undeniably authentic and enjoyable voice in Travis; he always felt honest and believable as a person to me. In general, her writing is incredibly strong, and there are some beautiful descriptions and moments throughout the novel. Even the dialogue in the novel felt real and charming. If I didn't know better, I would honestly think Doller was an eighteen-year-old male marine. 

There's also plenty of conflict to fill a book with not much more than 200 pages. It makes the book incredibly easy to read, I think I devoured it in only a few hours. And I definitely enjoyed it. My only criticism would be that I maybe wanted a little more. It's frustrating but honest to say that my expectations going into Something Like Normal may have influenced my experience. The book itself is incredibly well-written, just like I expected from Doller. But I think it's just a bit too short for me. I wanted a little more time with the characters, a little more time for events to unfold and develop. It's not a major flaw but it does hold me back from the full-on gush fest I expected.

The truth is, I'm writing this review six months after finishing Something Like Normal, and in retrospect, some of the events or character changes in the novel feel like they needed a bit more time. That said, I am definitely still excited for Doller's next novel, Where The Stars Still Shine. I am most certainly still a big fan of hers. I couldn't stop reading Travis' journey, and I especially loved his voice. This is certainly the first young adult book I've read that deals with these kinds of issues, and I particularly enjoyed the male perspective, which is sometimes lacking among the young adult books I read. The relationship between Harper and Travis was really great, and despite tackling serious issues the novel still has a sense of humour.  

Something Like Normal may not have been exactly what I was hoping for, but it was something pretty close, and I am curious to see if Doller gets it perfect next time– with writing like hers, it's definitely possible. 

Release Date: June 19th 2012 Pages: 224  Format: Hardcover 
Source: Purchased  Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Buy It: Book Depository

This is a review by Zoë. You can find her here on Goodreads or on Twitter @strandedhero

1 comment:

  1. This cover turned me off from this book for a long time -- it makes the book seem like it's going to be a trashy romance, when it's actually a nuanced portrayal of a young Marine coping with PTSD from a tour in Afghanistan and family/life drama back home when he visits. The characters and situations felt real.


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