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REVIEW: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Dear Ms. Doller:

This book was recommended to me by Racblog ( who knows I’ve been reading more New Adult books. I’m using the term “New Adult” which I believe was originally coined by St. Martin’s Press. The period references that post high school, on the cusp of adulthood time period. In some sense, these are classic but more accessible versions of the bildungsroman.

Trish Dollar Something Like Normal“Something Like Normal” is unique because it is a story told entirely from the male point of view. Travis is on a 30 day leave from Afghanistan. His commanding officer suggested strongly that he take the extra time knowing that Travis hadn’t quite recovered from losing his best friend and fellow Marine, Charlie, in an ambush. When Travis returns home he faces his parents failing marriage, his ex girlfriend hooking up with his brother, and how nothing seems to make sense to him anymore. He’s more comfortable at the local VA than a party with his peers. He can’t even sleep on his bed, preferring the unyielding hardness of the floor.

His nightmares keep him awake at night and when his ex girlfriend, now brother’s girlfriend, visits him late at night, he doesn’t have the internal fortitude to turn her away. He admits that when the two of them were together in high school, they cheated on each other constantly. Their relationship was screwed up and it is no surprise that she couldn’t stick with him while he was deployed. He’s angry that she hooked up with his brother only because his brother seems to be living Travis’ life: dating Travis’ girlfriend, hanging out with Travis’ friends, and even driving Travis’ car.

To make things more difficult, Travis suffers from a strong case of PTSD and believes he sees his buddy Charlie – in the crowd, in the booth across the table, in his bedroom. The only time that he feels comfortable is with Haley, one of the first girls he ever kissed. Unfortunately his cowardly and careless actions branded Haley as a loose girl and she lived under the specter of this for the rest of her junior and high school years.

Sometimes it is said that the military can be the making of a man and for Travis, he finds acceptance and belonging amongst the other Marines. This acceptance wasn’t available to him at home where his father, a former pro football player, withheld love after Travis quit playing football.

Travis’ struggle to cope with life away from the military, the grief and loss he feels, and the desire to be a better person were deftly conveyed in tones that befit a young man who was both arrogant and scared. I particularly loved the realization by Travis that when he was with Haley he wanted to be different, not the callous and irresponsible teen he was when he went away to the Marines, not the cheating bastard he is with his ex.

There are two main areas in which the book stumbles. First, as Racblog notes in her review, the father is a primary source of conflict for Travis yet is underdeveloped as a character. Second, Travis’ road to self enlightenment had only started at the end of the book. I felt like we needed more time with him to be convinced that he was dedicated to moving forward with his life and that he was competently dealing with his war trauma. The story had a slightly unfinished feel to it. B-

Best regards,


PS I bought this at Kobo using the 50% off coupon which resulted in the book being $5.25. Definitely a worthwhile read at that price.


Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Brie
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 16:40:59

    I just realized that my Twitter handle is terrible! I’m glad you liked the book. As much as I hate the term New Adult, I’m really enjoying the books. College-aged characters and stories aren’t that common and there’s a lot of potential there – new themes and subjects that can be explored, different types of conflicts and even the sensuality level can be higher, but still appeal to both YA and Adult fiction readers. I really enjoyed this one, mostly because the main character was interesting and flawed, there was a missed opportunity to explore the family dynamics and to portray it in a less trite way, but I’m happy I found the book.

  2. Jane
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 16:47:03

    @Brie: Thanks for recommending it to me. I hate the term “New Adult” too but I don’t know what else to use. Think of a better genre classification for all of us.

    I think the book was just too short and were it 50 pages or so longer, some of the family dynamics could have been explored differently, particularly in the way that Trevor was becoming a man and taking more adult view/responsibilities.

  3. Jennie
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 20:05:32

    I hadn’t heard the “new adult” term before, and I like the idea of it, if not the term. I sometimes like to read YA but I’m never sure if the voice or the concerns will feel to kiddy-ish to me. I might check this book out.

  4. diesel8
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 21:12:30

    Maybe it was a choice between New Adult or Old Kid, lol. Or “Grow Up and Get a Job and Move Out Already” — oops, can you tell I have a college-age kid?

  5. Estara
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 13:20:31

    Being German is probably the reason I do not get it, but truthfully? Young Adult has always meant exactly that time bracket they call New Adult now to me.

    The books that are classified as YA, which I do understand how to use these days, are Teenager books for me.

    And those Middle Grade books are children’s books. And the ones that are sold as Children’s Books are toddler or kindergarten age books for me.

    Heh ^^.

    I’m happy they’ve come up with any classification I can use as a shortcut when trying to recommend a book, though.

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