Something Like Normal
Title: Something Like Normal
Author: Trish Doller
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Number of Pages: 224 (paperback)
Advertised Age Level: Ages 14-17
Age and Grade of Main Character(s): 19, graduated from high school
Language: profanity, use of the “f” word
Sex: yes – no descriptions, but main character has sex with his ex-girlfriend, two characters lose their virginity
Drug/Alcohol Use: drinking, mention of pot use
Violence: main character is a Marine who was deployed to Afghanistan and he suffers flashbacks of attacks and death of fellow soldiers, main character gets hit in the face more than once
Social Issues: horrors of war, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, death of a best friend, dysfunctional family, parental infidelity
Suggested Movie Grade: PG-13
After high school, Travis “Solo” Stephenson joined the Marines to escape the hell that is living with his disapproving father. Travis discovers a new hell when he’s deployed to Afghanistan and he witnesses the horrors of war, including the death of his best friend, Charlie. Now back at home for a four week leave, Travis suffers from survivor’s guilt and a bad case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He’s having horrible nightmares and thinks he sees Charlie’s ghost. Travis’s ex-girlfriend, Paige, dumped him for his brother Ryan when Travis was overseas, but now that he’s back, Paige keeps showing up in Travis’s bed. This is a real problem because Travis is developing feelings for Harper, the girl whose reputation he destroyed back when they were in middle school. Travis’s mom, who has been super supportive of her military son, is struggling with her marriage, and Travis’s father has not improved at all. Worst, Travis no longer feels at home anywhere else but with his fellow soldiers, and he doesn’t know where he’s going or what his future holds. Through the story, Travis struggles to come to grips with what seems to be the “new” normal that is his life.
Potential Points of Concern:
Travis suffers PTSD and has flashbacks to battles he survived in Afghanistan. He also dreams of the death of his best friend, Charlie. These are not highly graphic but they are violent.
Due to his PTSD and his experiences as a soldier, Travis often reacts to loud noises, sudden movements and anything that startles him. Sometimes these reactions are violent, but no one is hurt.
Travis’s ex-girlfriend, Paige, dumped him via Dear John letter and began dating Travis’s brother, Ryan. When Travis returns home, Paige sneaks into his room at night and the two have sex. This is not graphically described.
Travis’s father disapproves of Travis because he quit the football team when in high school. Travis’s father shows obvious favoritism for his other son while emotionally punishing Travis. When he comes home, Travis stands up to his father on multiple occasions.
Travis’s mother suspects that her husband is having an affair and ends her marriage.
In middle school, Travis spread rumors about Harper that ruined her reputation. Harper punches him in the face when they encounter each other in a bar.
One of Travis’s fellow soldiers drinks heavily to deal with his experiences in Afghanistan.
Travis struggles with survivor’s guilt as he tries to accept the death of his best friend, Charlie. He is asked to speak at a memorial service. Charlie’s mother is a lesbian.
Age Appropriateness: 14 +