I have been lucky in that I have not had to fear for the life of a young family member or close friend serving in war torn areas. Australian casualties in the current conflicts have been low, we have lost just 33 soldiers since 2001 in Afghanistan, which is incredibly fortunate in comparison to the more than 5,000 lives of serving American soldiers, the majority aged under 25 years old.
In Something Like Normal, nineteen year old Travis is on a month's leave at home in Florida having served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan for the last year or more. Travis enlisted at eighteen, mainly to escape his hyper critical father and being home is proving both awkward and difficult. His girlfriend is now sleeping with his younger brother, Ryan, his father is cheating on his mother and Travis is plagued by nightmares about the loss of his best friend in-country, Charlie.
Told in the first person, Travis's story is believeable, moving and utterly compelling. As he tries to readjust to civilian life, he struggles with flashbacks and hyper awareness while also being tortured by grief and guilt. To me, Travis's perspective seems realistic, he thinks and feels like a teenage boy, from his casual approach to sex, to his horseplay with his Marine buddies. All that he has seen, and the PTSD he is suffering from, has had a profound affect on him though. The Travis who left home is not the same person who returned, and he wonders if her will ever be normal again.
Despite the serious issues raised in this book, there are moments of genuine humour, tenderness and a sweet romance. Travis meets Harper, a former classmate, and despite the odds they form a relationship that lends Travis emotional strength.
I give real credit to the author that there is no neat 'happily ever after' waiting at the end of this book, there is hope and redemption but Travis has a lot to deal with, and of course, he has to go back.
Don't be fooled by the brevity of this book, it has a lot to say. and says it well. Something Like Normal is a thought provoking contemporary young adult novel that explores what it may be like for the young service men returning home, even briefly. I'd specifically recommend it to siblings, family and friends of young serving military men but feel it would appeal to a wide range of readers for its realistic insight into a rarely discussed issue.show more
by Shelley Cusbert