Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I picked up this book after reading a great review of it on the blog Makeshift Bookmark (an awesome, mostly YA blog, by the way).
The main character Travis is home on leave from Afghanistan dealing with the death of his best friend, a slightly dysfunctional family, a toxic ex-girlfriend, and a pretty awful case of PTSD. The last thing he expects is to get involved with Harper, a feisty girl he's known most of his life, but who holds a bit of a grudge against him that dates back to the 6th grade.
Behind his tough exterior, the violence and loss Travis has experienced have made him very vulnerable, though he puts a lot of effort into hiding this fact from the world. Choosing to serve his country has made him grow up quickly and he feels worlds away from most of his civilian friends. Now that he's back home, he's finding it difficult to fit in and feels out of place, even in his own family.
Though he feels distanced from his family, he does manage to reconnect with his mom who is his biggest supporter. In a way, I think his mom draws strength from her son, which is a very interesting dynamic to witness. And I really loved Travis' new-found low tolerance for bullshit. When he realizes he is old enough to finally stand up to his bullying father and puts him in his (well-deserved) place, I wanted to cheer.
It was fascinating to read a book from a guy's point of view for once and I found both the characters and the story line to be very realistic. The love story is tender and touching without being sappy or over-the-top as Harper helps Travis deal with everything he's been through. I can't pretend to know what it's like to serve in the military, but I found this to be an interesting (fictional) look inside what many of our country's bravest face when returning home from war.